har·​ry ˈher-ē How to pronounce harry (audio)
harried; harrying

transitive verb

: to make a pillaging or destructive raid on : assault
: to force to move along by harassing
harrying the terrified horses down out of the mountainsR. A. Sokolov
: to torment by or as if by constant attack

Did you know?

Was there once a warlike man named Harry who is the source for the English verb the name mirrors? One particularly belligerent Harry does come to mind: William Shakespeare once described how "famine, sword, and fire" accompanied "the warlike Harry," England's King Henry the Fifth. But neither this king nor any of his namesakes are the source for the verb harry. Rather, harry (or a word resembling it) has been a part of English for as long as there has been anything that could be called English. It took the form hergian in Old English and harien in Middle English, passing through numerous variations before finally settling into its modern spelling. The word's Old English ancestors are related to Old High German words heriōn ("to devastate or plunder") and heri ("host, army").

Choose the Right Synonym for harry

worry, annoy, harass, harry, plague, pester, tease mean to disturb or irritate by persistent acts.

worry implies an incessant goading or attacking that drives one to desperation.

pursued a policy of worrying the enemy

annoy implies disturbing one's composure or peace of mind by intrusion, interference, or petty attacks.

you're doing that just to annoy me

harass implies petty persecutions or burdensome demands that exhaust one's nervous or mental power.

harassed on all sides by creditors

harry may imply heavy oppression or maltreatment.

the strikers had been harried by thugs

plague implies a painful and persistent affliction.

plagued all her life by poverty

pester stresses the repetition of petty attacks.

constantly pestered with trivial complaints

tease suggests an attempt to break down one's resistance or rouse to wrath.

children teased the dog

Examples of harry in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Ukraine has also harried Moscow with strikes aimed mainly at Russian energy installations — mirroring, though at a far smaller scale, the destructive Russian attacks aimed at Ukraine’s power grid. Laura King, Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2024 She's bolstered by an adult supporting cast including a luminous, yet harried Rachel McAdams as her mother, Barbara; Bennie Safdie as her nebbish, loving father, Herb; and Kathy Bates as Margaret's boisterous, affectionate grandmother. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, 11 July 2023 The river is just a few miles wide, but Russian artillery, bombs and explosive drones harry the Ukrainian boats by day and night. David Axe, Forbes, 20 Feb. 2024 While Jack's most romantic gesture involved not murdering everyone's favorite harried personal assistant, Woodall steps up his heartthrob game for the upcoming Netflix adaptation of David Nicholls’ best-selling romance, One Day. Emily Tannenbaum, Glamour, 8 Feb. 2024 An eye-catching red boomerang, the $800 million new terminal at Logan International Airport creates an environment for travelers that feels more humane than harried. Michael J. Lewis, WSJ, 10 Jan. 2024 The slam dance had continued, its pace only more harried. Kevin Lozano, The New Yorker, 1 Nov. 2023 He was relieved when Fatima called her father to come pick them up, as the sun sank in the sky and the wind harried the trees on the seafront. Sarah Dadouch, Washington Post, 5 Oct. 2023 Haiti, which ranks fifty-third and is playing in its first World Cup, pushed, harried, and unnerved England, the European champion, before falling, 1–0. Naaman Zhou, The New Yorker, 28 July 2023

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

Word History


Middle English hærȝen, herien, harien, herwen, harwen "to plunder, ravage, torment, pursue, drag," going back to Old English hergian, herian, heregian, hergon "to make predatory raids, ravage, wage war," going back to Germanic *harjōjan- (whence also Old Saxon herion "to plunder," Middle Dutch heren, hergen "to destroy with an army, ravage," Old High German heriōn, herrōn "to devastate, plunder," Old Norse herja "to despoil, lay waste"), verbal derivative of *harja- "body of armed men" (whence Old English here "body of armed men, army," Old Frisian here [in compounds], Old Saxon heri "army, crowd," Old High German heri, hari, Old Norse herr "host, army," Gothic harjis), going back to Indo-European *kori̯o- (whence also Middle Irish cuire "troop, host, company," Middle Welsh cord, cordd "tribe, clan, multitude, troop," Lithuanian kãrias "war, army"), derivative of appurtenance from *kor- "war," whence Lithuanian kãras "war," Old Persian kāra- "army, people" (with lengthened grade?); also, with suffix -no-, Greek koíranos "commander, ruler" (< *koironos < *kori̯o-no-s)

Note: Old English forms such as her(e)gian, 3rd singular present hergaþ, show variants with reversion of palatal g (= [j]) to velar g (= [ɣ]) before a back vowel, though in this case there was no original g, and the reversion is analogical. The two competing sets of forms were passed on to Middle English. The variants with either -i- or -w- gave rise to two more or less distinct words in modern English, harry and harrow entry 1. For other words containing Old English here "body of armed men" or Germanic *harja- see arrière-ban, harbinger entry 1, harbor entry 1, harness entry 1, herald entry 1, heriot.

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near harry

Cite this Entry

“Harry.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harry. Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


har·​ry ˈhar-ē How to pronounce harry (audio)
harried; harrying

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