sexual harassment


Definition of sexual harassment

: uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate (such as an employee or student)

First Known Use of sexual harassment

1971, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about sexual harassment

Time Traveler for sexual harassment

Time Traveler

The first known use of sexual harassment was in 1971

See more words from the same year

Statistics for sexual harassment

Cite this Entry

“Sexual harassment.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 13 December 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for sexual harassment

sexual harassment


Legal Definition of sexual harassment

: employment discrimination consisting of unwelcome verbal or physical conduct directed at an employee because of his or her sex also : the tort of engaging in such discrimination — see also hostile environment sexual harassment, quid pro quo sexual harassment

Note: Sexual harassment has been found by federal courts to violate the protection in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against discrimination in employment. There are also state statutes under which sexual harassment actions may be brought. In order to recover against an employer under a sexual harassment suit, the plaintiff has to show that the harassment affected the employment (as by being severe or pervasive) and that the employer is liable under respondeat superior because of actual or constructive knowledge of the harassment. Strict liability is often imposed for harassment of an employee by a supervisor or for quid pro quo sexual harassment.

More from Merriam-Webster on sexual harassment Encyclopedia article about sexual harassment

Comments on sexual harassment

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


easily led, controlled, or managed

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble tiles that read scrabble quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
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!