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Ultimately from Middle French harpie, from Latin harpyia, from Ancient Greek ἅρπυια (hárpuia, literally snatcher), from ἁρπάζω (harpázō, I snatch, seize). Compare rapacious. Middle English had arpie.



harpy (plural harpies)

  1. A fabulous winged monster, ravenous and filthy, having the face of a woman and the body of a vulture.
    • Milton
      Both table and provisions vanished quite,
      With sound of harpies' wings and talons heard.
  2. A shrewish woman.
    • 1927, Edgar Rice Burrows, The Outlaw of Torn[1], HTML edition, The Gutenberg Project, published 2008:
      But her most subtle wiles proved ineffectual in ridding her, even for a moment, of her harpy jailer []
  3. One who is rapacious or ravenous; an extortioner.
    • Goldsmith
      The harpies about all pocket the pool.
  4. The European moor buzzard or marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus).
  5. A large and powerful double-crested, short-winged American eagle (Harpia harpyja).


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