Definition of harp in English:



  • 1A musical instrument consisting of a frame supporting a graduated series of parallel strings, played by plucking with the fingers. The modern orchestral harp has an upright frame, with pedals which enable the strings to be retuned to different keys.

    • ‘Later, McChrystal asked Metcalf for an orchestration, first for strings, and then for strings and harp, which is the version McChrystal played here.’
    • ‘The pluck of the harps obviously relates to the ‘harp’ color of the piano.’
    • ‘Bennett's writing is highly sensitive, with delicate writing for the harp and harpsichord, as well as for the violist.’
    • ‘The six Irish singers and musicians feature a number of musical styles and the line-up incudes fiddles, whistles, harp, banjo, mandola, piano, guitars, bodhráns and more.’
    • ‘The prelude to Scene 2 meanwhile shows Poulenc's play with brass and woodwinds in give and take, while puckishly plucked strings and harp play with each other in the background.’
    • ‘Pressing the magic fax button was for him far more alarming than the intricacies of the concert, pedal harp.’
    • ‘Bassoonist John Clouser made the Lullaby a thing of beauty, accompanied by the three harps and muted strings.’
    • ‘On the modern harp, players pluck the strings near the middle with the pads of their fingers.’
    • ‘As if a film about three women has to have all the traditionally feminine sounds, and you can't get more feminine than strings, piano and harp.’
    • ‘The expanded orchestra, with added bass trumpet, contra bass trombone, special Wagner tubas and five harps which give this work its distinctive timbre, at turns scintillating and louring, played with admirable finesse.’
    • ‘The angels are playing a collection of musical instruments, including the harp, tambourine, cymbals, lyre and psaltery.’
    • ‘I casually plucked a few strings on the harp then strolled over to the harpsichord.’
    • ‘Percussion is used judiciously in these pieces, adding colour and texture at important points, whilst strings provide background and harp and wind carry most of the melodic weight.’
    • ‘I wondered what he was thinking as we swayed to the melody of softly playing lutes, harps, and lyres.’
    • ‘Materials for the Rebec would be much the same as for the harp or lyre, although the Rebec has only three strings.’
    • ‘The composer has made a kind of ‘concerto for orchestra’ and features the harp and clarinet in its later stages as concertante instruments.’
    • ‘Much of it has a suspended quality, of time stretched out, elongated, with overlapping waves of strummings that variously suggest guitars, harps, bells, and dulcimers constellating about a central drone.’
    • ‘Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin, Menuet Antique and Pavane pour une infante défunte are finely crafted readings as are Debussy's two Danses for harp and string orchestra.’
    • ‘Other musical instruments included stringed instruments such as fiddles and harps, and woodwind instruments such as flutes and fifes.’
    • ‘It is appealing, fresh, and redolent of the open air, and the composer's use of the harp and an orchestral piano lend the symphony, particularly the first movement, a glittering quality.’
  • 2

    ‘Papa had been teaching him to play the blues harp’
    another term for harmonica
  • 3A marine mollusc which has a large vertically ribbed shell with a wide aperture, found chiefly in the Indo-Pacific.

    Family Harpidae, class Gastropoda

    • ‘The Harpa mollusc shares much in common with volutes and olives. All three families make up the Volutacea superfamily, all of which are active, carnivorous sand burrowers.’
    • ‘Harpa species, and probably also Morum species, live in sand and feed on small crabs.’


[no object]
  • 1harp onTalk or write persistently and tediously on (a particular topic)

    ‘I don't want to harp on about the past’
    ‘you need to stop harping on her age’
    • ‘I've been harping on and harping on at people about his potential but he hasn't quite taken his opportunities.’
    • ‘I love what I do and I hate to be one of those people who harps on about how detrimental it is to development.’
    • ‘Isn't it funny how, after I managed to make it big with the blog they predicted will fail, that they are still harping on the same points?’
    • ‘So really, without harping on for too long, what I am trying to say, before even considering any of the moral issues, is - ‘what are the real benefits of legalisation?’’
    • ‘To the protestations of my colleagues in the Labour Party, I say that I have been harping on about this issue for so long, and it has taken as long as this to get it to the House.’
    • ‘I want to move on to the other categories but I'd rather not have to deal with a messy recount or deal with the fans of either game spending the next four years harping on and on about how their choice lost a flawed election.’
    • ‘But when she harps on about her looks, it sounds like relentless narcissism.’
    • ‘There are few things on this earth that irritate me more than people harping on about how all people are equally attractive and deserving to be thought of as so regardless of weight.’
    • ‘A source told the newspaper: ‘Pete was harping on to anyone who cared to listen about how great Kate sounds on the track.’’
    • ‘By harping on and on about the King's famous ‘something must be done’ statement she implies that he alone wanted to help the unemployed.’
    • ‘We hear elected officials harping on about social partnership and citing meaningless macroeconomic fundamentals which signify absolutely nothing for most people.’
    • ‘I'm sorry to keep harping on this New York Times article, but I just can't help it.’
    • ‘They've been harping on about this for the past half hour.’
    • ‘Paul Krugman and others keep harping on the fact that the United States spends more on health care than other industrial countries, yet our longevity statistics are no better.’
    • ‘I know he hates it when I harp on about that, but I shall keep harping on about it until we get the answers.’
    • ‘They have been harping on about being " a big club’ for 20 odd years, whilst languishing in the lower divisions.’
    • ‘I was also pretty disgusted at the way the BBC breakfast newscasters kept harping on the negative side of the disruption instead of being positive about this essential work to ensure our safety on the railway.’
    • ‘The traffic police keep harping on about safe driving and even ‘defensive driving,’ but nobody seems to bother about road manners, if that is the correct expression.’
    • ‘I won't like it too if people kept harping on Singapore's bad points.’
    • ‘Well, are the media trashing his reputation, by harping on it over and over again?’
    keep on about, go on about, persist in talking about, keep talking about, labour the point about, dwell on, expatiate on, elaborate on, expound on, make an issue of, discuss something at length
    View synonyms
  • 2archaic Play on a harp.

    ‘among them harped the divine minstrel Demodocus’


Old English hearpe, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch harp and German Harfe.