1 of 3

verb (1)

har·​row ˈher-(ˌ)ō How to pronounce harrow (audio)
harrowed; harrowing; harrows

transitive verb

: pillage, plunder
long harrowed by oppressor's handSir Walter Scott


2 of 3


: a cultivating tool set with spikes, teeth, or disks and used primarily for breaking up and smoothing the soil


3 of 3

verb (2)

harrowed; harrowing; harrows

transitive verb

: to cultivate with a harrow (see harrow entry 2)
harrow the fields
: torment, vex
harrowed by war
has not set out to appall the reader with horrors nor to harrow him with miseriesDouglas Stewart
ˈher-ə-wər How to pronounce harrow (audio)

Examples of harrow in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Track maintenance will then harrow the track to release the compactness and return it to its regular consistency for racing. Los Angeles Times, 28 Dec. 2021 That same humble deity, in the course of putting on humanity, had obtained a glimpse of the conditions on earth—poverty, needless estrangement, a stubborn pattern of rich ruling over poor—and decided to incite a revolution that would harrow Hell. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 28 Dec. 2020
WallStreetBets forum, were finally seizing control after being treated for decades as no more than toads beneath the harrow (to cite Rudyard Kipling). Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 25 Jan. 2022

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

Word History


Verb (1)

Middle English herwen, harwen — more at harry

Note: See note at harry.


Middle English harewe, harwe, harow, of uncertain origin

Note: The Oxford English Dictionary, first edition, suggests inheritance from an unattested Old English *hearwe or *hearge, though the Middle English word is perhaps more likely a loan from Old Norse, despite the phonetic objections—compare Norwegian harv, horv "harrow," Swedish harv, Danish harve, Old Icelandic herfi. The further origin of the Scandinavian word is unclear. G. Kroonen, Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic (Brill, 2013) suggests as an etymon *harbō, akin to *harbjan- "to pluck" (whence, allegedly, Norwegian dialect herva "to snatch"), akin to Germanic *harbista- "autumn" and Latin carpere "to pluck, pick, gather" (see harvest entry 1). A harrow, however, is not a tool for plucking or gathering.

Verb (2)

Middle English harwen, harowen, derivative of harwe, harow harrow entry 2

First Known Use

Verb (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of harrow was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near harrow

Cite this Entry

“Harrow.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harrow. Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
har·​row ˈhar-ō How to pronounce harrow (audio)
: a cultivating tool that has spikes, teeth, or disks and is used for breaking up and smoothing the soil


2 of 2 verb
: to cultivate with a harrow
harrower noun

Geographical Definition


geographical name

Har·​row ˈha-(ˌ)rō How to pronounce Harrow (audio)
borough of northwestern Greater London, England population 241,000

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