Definition of harm in English:

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Pronunciation: /härm/


1Physical injury, especially that which is deliberately inflicted: it’s fine as long as no one is inflicting harm on anyone else
More example sentences
  • They knew that there was a very strong chance that the police would come in and remove them and, in that process, inflict physical injury or serious harm to a person.
  • Police officers then arrived and arrested the offender, 19, on suspicion of causing actual body harm.
  • Emphasize the importance of telling you and an adult at school whenever another kid or group of kids causes your child or anyone else physical harm.
injury, hurt, pain, trauma;
damage, impairment, mischief
1.1Material damage: it’s unlikely to do much harm to the engine
More example sentences
  • He said the issue was whether the extra-high roof had caused material harm and the unanimous view of planning officers had been that it did not.
  • He added: ‘We investigate all reports of pollution and harm to the environment will result in prosecution.’
  • Mrs Thelwell secured retrospective planning permission to put up a new staircase and partition wall at Sundial House as councillors accepted the work had not resulted in any material harm.
1.2Actual or potential ill effect or danger: I can’t see any harm in it
More example sentences
  • Patients who are well informed about prognosis and treatment options, including potential harms and side effects, are more likely to adhere to treatments and have better health outcomes.
  • However, in the case of the U.S.-China textile trade, the U.S. imposed the measures before actual harm had taken place.
  • What possible harm could this therapeutic effect have?
evil, wrong, ill, wickedness, iniquity, sin


[with object]
1Physically injure: the villains didn’t harm him
More example sentences
  • Despite all these, if I ever hear again about you physically harming others, don't be surprised if the police come and arrest you for assault.
  • This taxi driver became violent and physically harmed me.
  • There is no use fighting intolerance by physically harming someone.
1.1Damage the health of: smoking when pregnant can harm your baby
More example sentences
  • Some workers who claim that their health has been harmed by tobacco smoke at work, are already suing employers for damages of up to 250,000.
  • ‘I know I am harming my health, but there are so many people smoking around me, so the harm must be slight,’ said the boy while blowing out smoke.
  • Environmentalists claim the waves were harming the health of local residents.
1.2Have an adverse effect on: this could harm his Olympic prospects
More example sentences
  • Do we feed the hungry by developing higher-yielding crops, even if it might harm the Earth?
  • Taking five or eight or ten years off to get the kids started off right before they go to school is going to mean irreparably harming our prospects for advancement.
  • Cunningham is popular with the party faithful, but party modernisers view her as too radical and fear that some of her views could be harming their electoral prospects.



come to no harm

Be unhurt or undamaged.
Example sentences
  • Terms and conditions of filming are some of the most stringent in the region but several pre-production meetings are held to ensure the hall comes to no harm.
  • Millions of women have benefited greatly from hormone replacement therapy and come to no harm.
  • Even though they had assured him he would come to no harm, Special Branch had warned him last week that his name was on a death list.

do more harm than good

Inadvertently make a situation worse rather than better.
Example sentences
  • He argued that England should abandon the whole concept of multiculturalism, since it was doing more harm than good.
  • I think that using humanitarian aid as ‘bait’ to get people ‘hooked’ on Christianity will probably end up doing more harm than good.
  • But could full - body scans being doing more harm than good?

do (someone) no harm

Used to indicate that a situation or action will not hurt someone, whether or not it will provide any benefit: the diet of milk and zwieback certainly did him no harm
More example sentences
  • An old man has tired himself dancing and says: ‘A glass of whiskey will do us no harm after that.’
  • Another big game against Italy would do him no harm, even if 6ft 3in is tall for a specialist openside.
  • The heat of the sun did her no harm, and the gales and tempests held away from her and let her work in peace.

mean no harm

Not intend to cause damage or insult: this was cruel, but they meant no harm by it
More example sentences
  • My apologies for any distress I've caused you missy, I mean no harm.
  • People are often intimidated by a gangs of youths standing together on a street corner, even when they mean no harm.
  • I am no expert in the law relating to this subject, but these people mean no harm to the building, that is plain to see.

no harm done

Used to reassure someone that what they have done has caused no real damage.
Example sentences
  • ‘It's alright Emily, no harm done,’ he reassured me.
  • ‘I wasn't hurt and neither was Trigger, so there was no harm done,’ said the philosophical youngster.
  • Aside from being a bit scared, there was no harm done and I got my money back.

no harm, no foul

chiefly US Used to indicate that a mistake or instance of misconduct should be excused because it has not caused damage: strictly speaking it was petty trespassing, but no harm, no foul
Originally in the context of sports: compare foul (sense 1 of the noun)
More example sentences
  • They could have then been bought off with lucrative careers, no harm, no foul.
  • The other threads are marked for deletion, no harm, no foul, all cleaned up.
  • Look, if everybody is happy with a deal, no harm, no foul.

out of harm's way

In a safe place.
Example sentences
  • They're continuing to move out of harm's way into safer regions of the state.
  • Maybe we should try and catch these beautiful beasts and put them in zoos where they are safe and out of harm's way.
  • We want to get as many people out of harm's way as we possibly can.


Old English hearm (noun), hearmian (verb), of Germanic origin; related to German Harm and Old Norse harmr 'grief, sorrow'.

Words that rhyme with harm

alarm, arm, Bairam, balm, barm, becalm, calm, charm, embalm, farm, forearm, Guam, imam, ma'am, malm, Montcalm, Notre-Dame, palm, psalm, qualm, salaam, smarm

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: harm

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