Definition of gadfly in English:



  • 1A fly that bites livestock, especially a horsefly, warble fly, or botfly.

    • ‘Like a gadfly you have been timing your intervention in my sleep routine with uncouth precision.’
    • ‘Zeus had once tried to seduce the lovely Io, but Hera, his jealous wife, had discovered her husband's intentions and turned poor Io into a cow, left to wander about the earth, constantly pursued and tormented by a pestilent gadfly.’
    • ‘She was tormented by a furious little gadfly that bit her mercilessly, though she flicked her tail this way and that.’
    • ‘Later, Hera sent the notorious gadfly to continuously bite and irritate Io.’
    1. 1.1 A person who annoys or criticizes others in order to provoke them into action.
      ‘always a gadfly, he attacked intellectual orthodoxies’
      • ‘In a male-dominated culture, she was a woman who read, a writer who meant to publish, and a theological gadfly.’
      • ‘She was an occasional mover once, an equal opportunity, though always at bottom DNC faithful gadfly to be reckoned with, but now she's become little more than a formulaic stock pot cooking up the same tired stone soup every week.’
      • ‘In part as a way to circumvent this ban, the two launched the Emergency Conservation Committee, a radical organization that remained a gadfly in wildlife conservation circles for the next three decades.’
      • ‘Even more important, he, the shocker, the inspirer, the perpetual gadfly and disrupter and disturber, had gained the confidence of the astute and judicious statesman who was our Prime Minister.’
      • ‘We need to encourage new and daring defenders of science, gadflies in the name of critical inquiry; interpreters able to extend the public's understanding of science and its methods.’
      • ‘A prolific and polemical author unafraid to offend any and all comers, Abbey was a gadfly who reveled in the controversy he stirred.’
      • ‘I am not a developer gadfly and my philosophy with films and developers has always been to stay with things that work well.’
      • ‘I have always considered him sort of a Socratic gadfly.’
      • ‘Socrates has been described as a gadfly - a first-class pain.’
      • ‘He lives in Maine now, and remains a journalistic gadfly.’
      • ‘While his documentaries are popular in the US and he makes the bestseller lists with his books, he is still sometimes seen by the press and public there as a fringe gadfly.’
      • ‘As I discussed in another column, anonymity has allowed sites to post arguably confidential corporate information despite trade secret laws, and thus act as gadflies for corporate change.’
      • ‘One of his victims was the good abbe himself, a court gadfly and the author of musical comedies, by all estimates a man begging for comic publicity.’
      • ‘Socrates' preferred analogy for his own role in the city was that of a gadfly, who lit upon his fellow citizens and sought to sting them into a healthy state of intellectual wakefulness.’
      • ‘But he admits he is curious: what has the liberal gadfly done to annoy so many conservatives like him?’
      • ‘But as critic, scourge, and gadfly he is in the league of Socrates and Voltaire.’
      • ‘Baseball, by which I mean baseball, lowercase b, has lost a penetrating mind of great discernment, a gadfly who would not be dissuaded from his job as he saw it even when the Commissioner himself phoned to tell him to cut it out.’
      • ‘It was much more fun to be a gadfly than to be stung by one.’
      • ‘The presence of gadflies has the effect of stalling the proceedings and delaying decisions.’
      • ‘The gadfly soon became an annoyance to both the MTA and the union, creating a newsletter which aired workers' grievances but criticised alleged union inaction.’


Late 16th century: from gad, or obsolete gad ‘goad, spike’, from Old Norse gaddr, of Germanic origin; related to yard.