Harridan and harpy

A harridan is a woman who is known for scolding others, for being belligerent, for being bossy. A harridan is usually an old woman.  The word harridan first appears in the 1700s to describe a whore or loose woman who is losing her charms. It is assumed that the word harridan is derived from the French word haridelle, which means old, broken-down horse.

A harpy is a grasping, angry woman, a woman known for scolding others, a shrew. The word harpy is derived from the monsters from Ancient Greek mythology, harpies. Harpies had the head and trunk of a woman, with bird wings and feet. Harpies were known to take food and harass people at the behest of Zeus, as well as deliver evil-doers to the Furies. The word harpy is taken from the Greek word Harpyia, which means snatchers.


Conversely, Jacqueline Antaramian is a regal, even reserved Volumnia, a more nuanced matriarch than the usual hell-on-wheels harridan. (The Daily Record)

The local harridan Annie is forever looking for her son Reggie to punish him while her long­suffering husband Arthur dotes on his pigeons. (The Berwick Advertiser)

Several books about Clinton use this societal attitude to vilify her, portraying her as a foul-mouthed harridan who spews curses at state troopers, secret service agents, military veterans and innocent staffers trying to fly the American flag. (TIME Magazine)

He begins the film in bravura fashion with a haunted house sequence in which a tour guide is terrorised by an evil harpy who causes staircases to crumble beneath him. (The Independent)

“This may be because I’m a woman, which means I am an emotional land mine waiting to be stepped on, a weeping, oversharing harpy whose inner weather fluctuates wildly.” (The Chicago Tribune)


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