One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
nounPlural harpiesGreek Mythology Roman Mythology
1A rapacious monster described as having a woman's head and body and a bird's wings and claws or depicted as a bird of prey with a woman's face.
- ‘Banished to the seventh circle of hell and turned into burning trees, Dante's suicides are fed upon by harpies for all eternity.’
- ‘Hybrid creatures, such as sphinxes, harpies, sirens, griffons and centaurs, carved on Roman sarcophagi, candelabras, altars and temple friezes, were a direct source of artistic inspiration.’
- ‘The harpy woman shook her wings and let out a blood curdling cry from the depths of her throat, raising goose bumps on my arms.’
- ‘In the old Greek stories harpies were agents of divine retribution unleashed on those who victimized others by violence.’
- ‘The harpy, whose name was derived from the Greek word arpazo, ‘to seize’, was a monstrous female demon of insatiable hunger, known as temptress, seductress and tormenter of victims.’
- 1.1 A grasping, unpleasant woman.
- ‘From what we see, Clare has an intuitive sympathy with children, while Mrs Trevel, far from being a bearer of hidden wisdom, is actually a vengeful harpy.’
- ‘Surely this wasn't the cold-hearted harpy that had spurned my affections.’
- ‘He is not alone in his depravity, however; his mistress is an opportunistic parvenu, and his wife is a merciless harpy.’
- ‘I don't know about anyone else, but I find it a little hard to identify with a shrieking harpy.’
- ‘I feel like a heartless harpy for having these feelings, but ultimately, I feel stifled by him, nay even negated.’
Late Middle English: from Latin harpyia, from Greek harpuiai ‘snatchers’.
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