Printable Version
Pronunciation: hê-ræs or -rês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To continuously pester, to annoy persistently, to harry, to persistently intimidate. 2. To create a hostile environment by unwelcome verbal or physical intimidation.

Notes: This word was misspelled harrass more than 1.5 million times on the Web on January 22, 2018. I suppose people can't remember which consonant is doubled, so they double both to make sure they get the right one. The action noun is harassment and the personal noun is harasser.

In Play: "The #MeToo movement spotlights sexual harassment in the US workplace." Harvey Weinstein, a prominent Hollywood producer, can take credit for starting the movement by harassing and assaulting hundreds of female film actors over the 30 years of his activities. Harassment on the playground is called "bullying", and several states have taken steps to reduce that type of harassment, too.

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from French harasser "tire out, vex" in the 16th century. This verb is probably a reflex of Old French (a la) harache as in courre a la harache "to chase", based on harer "to stir up, provoke", originally "sic dogs on". At this point the history becomes hazy. Harer may come from Frankish hara "over here, hither", but this avenue presents semantic problems. The root of hara could just as well come from PIE koro- "war, army", which also went into the making of harry, harangue, and hurry. The semantic path here is also lined with semantic pitfalls. So, take your pick. (Let's not harass Frank Myers of Stonybrook, New York, but thank him profusely for recommending today's rather confusing Good Word at several levels.)

Dr. Goodword,

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