har·​poon | \här-ˈpün \

Definition of harpoon 

: a barbed spear or javelin used especially in hunting large fish or whales

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from harpoon

harpoon transitive verb
harpooner noun

Examples of harpoon in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Decorated with all sorts of nautical equipment, such as harpoons, diver outfits and helmets, a whale jaw bone and original paintings by Wolowiec. Shonda Talerico Dudlicek, Elgin Courier-News, "Guide to outdoor dining in Chicago suburbs: Port Edward in Algonquin," 7 July 2018 When the larvae find themselves in a stressful situation, like getting caught in an armpit or under a swimsuit, their harpoon-shooting cells are activated. National Geographic, "What's Giving Some Beachgoers Rashes? Get the Facts.," 28 June 2018 The large satellite will attempt to recapture the smaller satellites with a harpoon and a net. Andrea Leinfelder, Houston Chronicle, "Largest satellite to date deployed from International Space Station," 20 June 2018 Their findings, published Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology, verify the existence of a harpoon-like mechanism that scientists have been piecing together for decades. New York Times, "Using Harpoon-Like Appendages, Bacteria ‘Fish’ for New DNA," 14 June 2018 The room opens onto several others overflowing with fascinating angling displays that run the technological gamut from a bone hook from around 10,000 B.C. in Netherlands, a hooks and line from 3,000 B.C., reindeer antler harpoons from France circa. John Goodspeed, San Antonio Express-News, "German hunting, fishing museum spans history back to the stone age," 14 June 2018 Residents of Napaskiak and other nearby villages killed the whale using harpoons, high-powered rifles and shot guns, and hauled it to shore, where its meat was distributed among villagers. Laurel Andrews, Anchorage Daily News, "Feds: No charges against Alaska hunters who killed protected gray whale," 12 June 2018 Yet what looked like a mega-gaffe with Hannity turned out to be Giuliani taking a harpoon for the President. Dana Bash, CNN, "How Giuliani wins by being 'the craziest guy in the room'," 31 May 2018 The satellite will launch a handful of small cubesats to act as targets, and the main satellite will attempt to capture them with both a giant net and a harpoon. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Prototype Satellite Launched on SpaceX Rocket Will Try to Clean Up Space Junk," 3 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'harpoon.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of harpoon

1625, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for harpoon

probably from Dutch harpoen, from Middle Dutch, from Old French harpon brooch, from harper to grapple

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about harpoon

Statistics for harpoon

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for harpoon

The first known use of harpoon was in 1625

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for harpoon



English Language Learners Definition of harpoon

: a long weapon used especially for hunting large fish or whales


har·​poon | \här-ˈpün \

Kids Definition of harpoon

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a barbed spear used especially for hunting whales and large fish


harpooned; harpooning

Kids Definition of harpoon (Entry 2 of 2)

: to strike with a barbed spear


har·​poon | \här-ˈpün \

Medical Definition of harpoon 

: a medical instrument with a barbed head used for removing bits of living tissue for examination

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on harpoon

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with harpoon

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for harpoon

Spanish Central: Translation of harpoon

Nglish: Translation of harpoon for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about harpoon

Comments on harpoon

What made you want to look up harpoon? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make faulty or ineffective

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!