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From Hawaiian Wai Nomi ‎(pearl water). The extended senses allude to the surprise attack executed by the Imperial Japanese Navy on the harbor on December 7, 1941.

Proper nounEdit

Pearl Harbor

  1. A deep water harbor on Oahu, Hawaii.
  2. A US Navy base at the harbor.
  3. The Attack on Pearl Harbor.
    Pearl Harbor happened in 1941 and was the direct cause of the United States' entry into World War II.



Pearl Harbor ‎(plural Pearl Harbors)

  1. A sneak attack, often using underhanded measures.
    • 2002, Richard F. Hill, Hitler Attacks Pearl Harbor: Why the United States Declared War on Germany, page 85
      Most Americans wanted no more Pearl Harbors, but they now expected Germany to attempt one.
  2. A seminal dramatic event that unites a community and arouses it into action against an enemy.
    • 2012 July 6, Milton Clary (interviewee), Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai (author), “Drone Hijacking? That’s Just the Start of GPS Troubles” [1], Wired
      “We certainly don’t want a GPS Pearl Harbor, but probably it’s gonna take a GPS Mogadishu to get people’s attention.”


Pearl Harbor ‎(third-person singular simple present Pearl Harbors, present participle Pearl Harboring, simple past and past participle Pearl Harbored)

  1. (often passive, slang) To attack by surprise; to subject to a sneak attack.
    • 2000, James P. Sterba, Earth Ethics: Introductory Readings on Animal Rights, page 345:
      The first and second ships had been successfully Pearl Harbored. The third was not to be surprised. As we approached, she dropped her net and fled. We pursued.
    • 2013, Heiner Timmermann, The Future a Memory: The Cold War and Intelligence, page 127:
      Pearl Harbor had seared itself into the American consciousness, but even at the times of greatest tension American Presidents never believed that they were about to be Pearl Harbored again.
  2. (often passive, slang, rare) To take rudely by surprise.
    • (Can we date this quote?), Halloween Shrieks (ISBN 1326086294), page 107:
      If I had quit two houses sooner than I did all would have been well but since I didn't, I got Pearl Harbored by some big kid dressed up in a Ben Cooper Howdy Doody plastic outfit and a goofily grinning mask []
    • 2001, Arthur C. Clarke, quoted in Stylistics: A Resource Book for Students (2004, ISBN 0415281059), page 143:
      Of course, with the Soviets' launch of Sputnik, the Americans had been Pearl Harbored in space.


Proper nounEdit

Pearl Harbor f

  1. Pearl Harbor (a harbour and naval base in Hawaii, United States)
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