From Old French harasser (to tire out, to vex), of obscure origin, perhaps from Old French harer (to stir up, provoke, set a dog on) and/or Old French harier (to harry); see harry; compare Old French harace (a basket made of cords), harace, harasse (a very heavy and large shield).



harass (third-person singular simple present harasses, present participle harassing, simple past and past participle harassed)

  1. To fatigue or to tire with repeated and exhausting efforts.
  2. To annoy endlessly or systematically.
    Synonyms: beset, chevy, hassle, harry, molest, plague, provoke
    • 1829 June 10 (date written), [Washington Irving], “[The Legend of Don Roderick.] Of the Ancient Inhabitants of Spain—of the Misrule of Witiza the Wicked.”, in Legends of the Conquest of Spain (The Crayon Miscellany; no. 3), Philadelphia, Pa.: [Henry Charles] Carey, [Isaac] Lea, & Blanchard, published 1835, OCLC 2031465, page 11:
      Spain, or Iberia, as it was called in ancient days, has been a country harassed from the earliest times, by the invader.
    • 1877, Anna Sewell, Black Beauty Chapter 23[1]
      In my old home, I always knew that John and my master were my friends; but here, although in many ways I was well treated, I had no friend. York might have known, and very likely did know, how that rein harassed me; but I suppose he took it as a matter of course that could not be helped; at any rate nothing was done to relieve me.
  3. To put excessive burdens upon; to subject to anxieties.
    To harass good people is no different than speaking ill of them.

Derived termsEdit




  1. (obsolete) devastation; waste
  2. (obsolete) worry; harassment

Further readingEdit