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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.


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


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.


See also[edit]