banshee

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

From Irish bean sí, from Old Irish ben síd (literally woman of the fairy mound), from Old Irish ben (woman), from Proto-Celtic *benā, from Proto-Indo-European *gʷḗn + Old Irish síd (fairy mound), from Proto-Celtic *sedos, *sīdos (mound (inhabited by fairies)), from Proto-Indo-European *sēds, *sed- (seat). The term banshee entered English in 1771.

Pronunciation[edit]

  • (file)
  • IPA(key): /bænˈʃiː/ or /ˈbænʃiː/

Noun[edit]

banshee (plural banshees)

  1. In Irish folklore, a female spirit, usually taking the form of a woman whose mournful wailing warns of an impending death.
  2. (derogatory) A noisy or ill-tempered woman.
    • 1936, John Thomas McIntyre, Steps Going Down, page 15:
      Where's this old banshee that runs the place?

Usage notes[edit]

  • A banshee was originally merely a fairy woman who sang a caoineadh (lament) for recently-deceased members of certain families. Translations of Irish works into English made a distinction between the banshee and other fairy folk that the original language and original stories do not seem to have, but from whence sprung the current image of the banshee.

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