har·​py | \ ˈhär-pē How to pronounce harpy (audio) \
plural harpies

Definition of harpy

1 capitalized : a foul malign creature in Greek mythology that is part woman and part bird
2a : a predatory person : leech
b : a shrewish woman

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Examples of harpy in a Sentence

in fairy tales stepmothers are often portrayed as harpies who make the lives of their stepchildren miserable having just started to make it really big in the music business, he found himself surrounded by a flock of harpies greedy for a piece of the action
Recent Examples on the Web Those kinds of sentiments have multiplied on social media, which has exploded with memes in recent days calling the four everything from terrorists to harpies to cancer. Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times, "Pelosi. Clinton. Obama. Now ‘the Squad’ Is the New Target for the Right.," 27 July 2019 Others portrayed her as a harpy, a notoriously disagreeable mythical beast that was half bird-of-prey, half woman. The Economist, "Women in public life are increasingly subject to sexual slander. Don’t believe it," 9 Nov. 2019 The clergy and royal courts in days of yore used images of griffins, hellmouths, harpies, dragons and sea swine to instill fear, to divide anxious populations, to assert dominance and control, and to ostracize non-Europeans. Steven Litt, cleveland.com, "‘Medieval Monsters’ exhibit at Cleveland Museum of Art surveys images used to inspire fear, hatred and wonder," 1 Sep. 2019 Elizabeth Moss, as Claire, has based her career playing sad-sacks and harpies, in Mad Men, The Square, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Her Smell; so Moss is a comic actress by default. Armond White, National Review, "The Kitchen Is a Berserk, Female-Revenge Fantasy — and a Bad Movie," 9 Aug. 2019 There are fairies and nymphs, unicorns, harpies, giants, ogres, trolls, Gollums and dragons. Patti Restivo, baltimoresun.com, "'Pip-Pip The Dragon' at Howard Community College delivers magic that is out of this world," 14 June 2019 But maybe these women aren’t evil vixens or cold-hearted harpies. Andrea Bartz, Marie Claire, "Sometimes I Exploit My Sexuality and I'm Not Sorry," 25 Feb. 2019 Teri Terrific, as she was known among friends, was much maligned in the film industry as a harpy who exploited Ms. Shields and turned her into an unprotesting meal ticket. Ruth La Ferla, New York Times, "Nothing Comes Between Brooke Shields and Her New Line for QVC," 14 Mar. 2018 The Victorian fascination with madness gave us an indelible squad of deranged harpies (Miss Havisham, Bertha Rochester, Lady Audley, to name a few). Marisha Pessl, New York Times, "Our Villains, Ourselves: A Thriller Roundup," 25 Oct. 2017

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

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First Known Use of harpy

1513, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for harpy

Latin Harpyia, from Greek

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Time Traveler for harpy

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The first known use of harpy was in 1513

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Cite this Entry

“Harpy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harpy. Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for harpy


How to pronounce harpy (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of harpy

: an evil creature in Greek mythology that is part woman and part bird
: an angry and unpleasant woman

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More from Merriam-Webster on harpy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for harpy

Nglish: Translation of harpy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about harpy

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