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PIE word
PIE word

The verb is derived from Middle French, Old French harasser (to exhaust, tire out, wear out; to harry, torment, vex) (modern French harasser (to exhaust, tire out, wear out)), possibly from Old French harer (to set a dog on),[1] from Frankish *hara (here, hither) (a command for a dog to attack),[2] from Proto-Germanic *hē₂r (here, in this place), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *ḱe (here; this) + *ís (the (person or thing just named)) + *-r.

The noun is derived from the verb.[3]


  • (Received Pronunciation) enPR: hăʹrəs, hərăsʹ, IPA(key): /ˈhæɹəs/, /həˈɹæs/
  • (file)
  • (General American) enPR: hərăsʹ, hăʹrəs, IPA(key): /həˈɹæs/, /ˈhæɹəs/
    • The pronunciation with stress on the first syllable is older and regarded by some as the only correct one, but second pronunciation with stress on the second syllable is now also frequently encountered.[2]
  • Rhymes: -æɹəs, -æs
  • Hyphenation: ha‧rass


harass (third-person singular simple present harasses, present participle harassing, simple past and past participle harassed) (transitive)

  1. To annoy (someone) frequently or systematically; to pester.
    Synonyms: beleaguer, beset, chevy, harry, hassle, molest, plague
    • 1829, Juvenal, “Satire XII”, in William Smart, transl., Juvenal and Persius, Literally Translated for the Use of Students, London: [] [Richard Gilbert] for Whittaker, Treacher, & Co. [], →OCLC, page 125:
      For it is a stout calf, ripe for the temples and altar [to be sacrificed], and to be sprinkled with wine; who is now ashamed to draw the dugs of his mother, and who harasseth the oaks with his budding horn.
    • 1877, Anna Sewell, “A Strike for Liberty”, in Black Beauty: [], London: Jarrold and Sons, [], →OCLC, page 109:
      In my old home, I always knew that John and my master were my friends; but here, although in many ways I was well treated, I had no friend. York might have known, and very likely did know, how that rein harassed me; but I suppose he took it as a matter of course that could not be helped; at any rate nothing was done to relieve me.
    • 1895, “Saint Guthlac. A.”, in Israel Gollancz, editor, The Exeter Book, an Anthology of Anglo-Saxon Poetry [], part I (Poems I–VIII), London: [F]or the Early English Text Society, by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., [], →OCLC, part I, page 109, lines 81–88:
      Some who dwell in wildernesses, / who seek and occupy, by their own wills, homes in dark caverns, these await / the heavenly dwelling-place; he who grudgeth them life, / oft bringeth hateful terror upon them; / sometimes he showeth them horror, sometimes vain glory; / the wily murderer hath power of both, / and harasseth these lonely-dwellers; []
      A modern English translation of a 10th-century Old English text.
    1. (specifically) To persistently bother (someone, or a group of people) physically or psychologically when such behaviour is illegal and/or unwanted, especially over an extended period.
      • 2005, “Compressed air, wooden clappers, and other non-traditional methods for dispersing European starlings from an urban roost.”, in The Eleventh Wildlife Damage Management Conference[1]:
        In February 2004, we developed a technique using compressed air to physically and audibly harass the birds. [] One person slowly (< 5 mph) drove a pick-up truck through the airport terminal at dusk while the second person sat on a bench in the truck bed and directed the compressed air from the pipe into the canopy to harass starlings attempting to enter the roost site.
  2. To put excessive burdens upon (someone); to subject (someone) to anxieties.
    To harass good people is no different than speaking ill of them.
    • 1761, Thomas Boston, “State II. Namely, the State of Nature or of Entire Depravation. Head I. The Sinfulness of Man’s Natural State. [Of the Corruption of the Will.]”, in Human Nature in Its Four-fold State [], 12th edition, Edinburgh: [] David Gray [], →OCLC, page 80:
      The ſoul that dies this death, is like a loving wife matched with a rigorous huſband: ſhe does what ſhe can to pleaſe him, yet he is never pleaſed; but toſſeth, haraſſeth, and beats her, till ſhe break her heart, and death ſets her free: []
    • 1831, William French, George Skinner, transl., A New Translation of the Proverbs of Solomon from the Original Hebrew [], Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: [] J. Smith printer to the University; London: John Murray [], →OCLC, Proverbs XI:29, page 37:
      He, who harasseth his household, shall inherit the wind; / And the fool shall be the servant of the wise in heart.
    • 1839, Martin F[arquhar] Tupper, “Of Discretion”, in Proverbial Philosophy: A Book of Thoughts and Arguments, Originally Treated, 3rd edition, London: Joseph Rickerby, [], →OCLC, pages 147–148:
      Zeal without judgment is an evil, though it be zeal unto good; / [] / By a shoulder to the wheel downhill harasseth the labouring beast, / And where an obstruction were needed, will harm by an ill judged thrusting-on.
    • 1855, Alfred Tennyson, “Maud”, in Maud, and Other Poems, new edition, London: Edward Moxon, [], published 6, →OCLC, part XIX, stanza 3, page 65:
      I am sure I did but speak / Of my mother's faded cheek / When it slowly grew so thin, / That I felt she was slowly dying / Vext with lawyers and harass'd with debt: []
  3. To trouble (someone, or a group of people) through repeated military-style attacks.
    • 1622, Francis, Lord Verulam, Viscount St. Alban [i.e. Francis Bacon], The Historie of the Raigne of King Henry the Seventh, [], London: [] W[illiam] Stansby for Matthew Lownes, and William Barret, →OCLC, page 63:
      But meanevvhile, to harraſſe and vvearie the Engliſh, they [the French] did vpon all aduantages ſet vpon them vvith their Light-Horſe; vvherein neuertheleſſe they receiued commonly loſſe, eſpecially by meanes of the Engliſh-Archers.
    • 1712 March 4 (date written; Gregorian calendar), J[onathan] Swift, A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue; [], 2nd edition, London: [] Benj[amin] Tooke, [], published 1712, →OCLC, page 9:
      [T]he Britains, left to ſhift for themſelves, and daily haraſſed by cruel Inroads from the Picts, were forced to call in the Saxons for their Defence; []
    • 1829 June 10 (date written), [Washington Irving], “[The Legend of Don Roderick.] Of the Ancient Inhabitants of Spain—of the Misrule of Witiza the Wicked.”, in Legends of the Conquest of Spain (The Crayon Miscellany; no. 3), Philadelphia, Pa.: [Henry Charles] Carey, [Isaac] Lea, & Blanchard, published 1835, →OCLC, page 11:
      Spain, or Iberia, as it was called in ancient days, has been a country harassed from the earliest times, by the invader.
    • 1897, “Fourth Discourse. Jnana-Yoga.”, in Alladi Mahadeva Sastry, transl., The Bhagavad Gita with the Commentary of Sri Sankaracharya [], 7th edition, Madras, Tamil Nadu: Samata Books, published 1977, →OCLC, page 119:
      The tradition of this Yoga has now for a long time been broken here, O Arjuna, who harassest thy foes, like the sun, by the heat of thy prowess.
  4. (obsolete) Often followed by out: to fatigue or tire (someone) with exhausting and repeated efforts.
    • a. 1627 (date written), Francis [Bacon], “Considerations Touching a VVarre vvith Spaine. []”, in William Rawley, editor, Certaine Miscellany VVorks of the Right Honourable Francis Lo. Verulam, Viscount S. Alban. [], London: [] I. Hauiland for Humphrey Robinson, [], published 1629, →OCLC, pages 34–35:
      VVhich Troupes came to the Army but the day before, harraſed vvith a long and vveariſome march: and (as it is left for a memorable circumſtance in all Stories,) the Souldiers, being more ſenſible of a little Heat of the Sunne, than of any cold Feare of Death, caſt avvay their Armour, and Garments from them, and fought in their Shirts: []
    • 1697, Virgil, “The Third Book of the Georgics”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, page 102, lines 214–215:
      Their Bodies harraſs, ſink 'em when they run; / And fry their melting Marrow in the Sun.
    • 1712 (date written), [Joseph] Addison, Cato, a Tragedy. [], London: [] J[acob] Tonson, [], published 1713, →OCLC, Act V, scene i, page 57:
      Nature oppreſs'd, and harraſs'd out with Care, / Sinks down to Reſt.
    • 1812, John Mason Good, “Part II. First Series of Controversy.”, in The Book of Job, Literally Translated from the Original Hebrew, and Restored to Its Natural Arrangement: [], London: [] [F]or Black, Parry, and Co. [], by R. Watts, Broxbourn Press, →OCLC, Job XIV:19–20:
      As the waters wear to pieces the stones, / As their overflowings sweep the soil from the land,— / So consumest thou the hope of man; / Thou harassest him continually till he perish; / Thou weariest out his frame, and despatchest him.
    • 1825, Jedediah Cleishbotham [pseudonym], “Substance of Some Traditions Respecting Grimmfer the Wizard”, in New Landlord’s Tales; or, Jedediah in the South. [], volume II, London: [] [S. Gosnell] for T[homas] Hookham, [], →OCLC, chapter I, pages 126–127:
      '[T]is true, that he neither harasseth his vassals from morn to eve by hard labour and exaction, nor committeth them to the dungeon, when they can no longer work nor pay. But to knights of our calling, Monsieur Robichon, he is as ill disposed as the worst of them:— []
      By an unknown author in imitation of Walter Scott’s Tales of My Landlord (1816–1832).


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



harass (plural harasses)

  1. (archaic) Harassment; pestering.



  1. ^ harass, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 harass, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ harass, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2019.

Further reading[edit]