Share this entry

gadfly Line breaks: gad¦fly
Pronunciation: /ˈɡadflʌɪ/

Definition of gadfly in English:

noun (plural gadflies)

1A fly that bites livestock, especially a horsefly, warble fly, or botfly.
Example sentences
  • Later, Hera sent the notorious gadfly to continuously bite and irritate Io.
  • She was tormented by a furious little gadfly that bit her mercilessly, though she flicked her tail this way and that.
  • Zeus had once tried to seduce the lovely Io, but Hera, his jealous wife, had discovered her husband's intentions and turned poor Io into a cow, left to wander about the earth, constantly pursued and tormented by a pestilent gadfly.
1.1A person who annoys or criticizes others in order to provoke them into action: always a gadfly, he attacked intellectual orthodoxies
More example sentences
  • But he admits he is curious: what has the liberal gadfly done to annoy so many conservatives like him?
  • The gadfly soon became an annoyance to both the MTA and the union, creating a newsletter which aired workers' grievances but criticised alleged union inaction.
  • I have always considered him sort of a Socratic gadfly.


Late 16th century: from gad1, or obsolete gad 'goad, spike', from Old Norse gaddr, of Germanic origin; related to yard1.

Words that rhyme with gadfly

Adlai • blackfly • damselfly

Definition of gadfly in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day innocuous
Pronunciation: iˈnäkyo͞oəs
not harmful or offensive