Definition of gadfly in English:



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

    • ‘She was tormented by a furious little gadfly that bit her mercilessly, though she flicked her tail this way and that.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Later, Hera sent the notorious gadfly to continuously bite and irritate Io.’
    • ‘Like a gadfly you have been timing your intervention in my sleep routine with uncouth precision.’
    1. 1.1An annoying person, especially one who provokes others into action by criticism.
      • ‘A prolific and polemical author unafraid to offend any and all comers, Abbey was a gadfly who reveled in the controversy he stirred.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It was much more fun to be a gadfly than to be stung by one.’
      • ‘I have always considered him sort of a Socratic gadfly.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But he admits he is curious: what has the liberal gadfly done to annoy so many conservatives like him?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Socrates has been described as a gadfly - a first-class pain.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In a male-dominated culture, she was a woman who read, a writer who meant to publish, and a theological gadfly.’
      • ‘But as critic, scourge, and gadfly he is in the league of Socrates and Voltaire.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I am not a developer gadfly and my philosophy with films and developers has always been to stay with things that work well.’
      • ‘The presence of gadflies has the effect of stalling the proceedings and delaying decisions.’
      • ‘He lives in Maine now, and remains a journalistic gadfly.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’


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