har·​poon här-ˈpün How to pronounce harpoon (audio)
: a barbed spear or javelin used especially in hunting large fish or whales
harpoon transitive verb
harpooner noun

Examples of harpoon in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In 19th-century Australia, a pod of killer whales was known to herd baleen whales into a bay near a whalers’ settlement, then slap their tails to alert the humans to ready the harpoons. Camille Bromley, WIRED, 29 Aug. 2023 There’s a harpoon here, a miniature sailboat there, plus cozy alcove tables whose mirrors show the patina of age. Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, 21 Aug. 2023 In 1992, George and his colleagues examined an unusually old whale and found in it an old harpoon head that people haven’t used in more than 100 years. Alena Naiden, Anchorage Daily News, 11 July 2023 Jah says that various technologies, such as nets and harpoons, are being developed for this very purpose. Kat Friedrich, Popular Mechanics, 6 May 2023 During a show at Sloppy Joe’s in Key West, Fla., Mr. Sheridan jumped on the top of the bar and from there, swung on a harpoon suspended from the ceiling. Terence McArdle, Washington Post, 9 May 2023 In the ocean, jellyfish can shoot out their harpoons about 100 times as fast as the shrimp, but the action is not repeatable. Margaret Osborne, Smithsonian Magazine, 2 Mar. 2023 Another, called RemoveDEBRIS, would utilize a small craft that can throw out a net (or possibly a harpoon) to capture orbiting trash and guide it safely into Earth’s atmosphere. Jake Parks, Discover Magazine, 29 Jan. 2020 Here is how they’re sourced: Wild: There are bluefin tuna that are caught in the wild in a number of ways, from purse seine (a large netting), to trolling (luring through lines of bait) and harpoon gear. Jean Trinh, Los Angeles Times, 3 May 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'harpoon.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1625, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of harpoon was in 1625

Dictionary Entries Near harpoon

Cite this Entry

“Harpoon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harpoon. Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: a barbed spear used especially in hunting large fish or whales


2 of 2 verb
: to strike with a harpoon
harpooner noun

Medical Definition


har·​poon här-ˈpün How to pronounce harpoon (audio)
: a medical instrument with a barbed head used for removing bits of living tissue for examination

More from Merriam-Webster on harpoon

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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