Definition of harpoon in English:


Line breaks: har|poon
Pronunciation: /hɑːˈpuːn


A barbed spear-like missile attached to a long rope and thrown by hand or fired from a gun, used for catching whales and other large sea creatures.
More example sentences
  • The whale-line is the length of rope attached to the harpoon, which connects the boat to the whale it is following.
  • If he throws the harpoon, the whale must be directly in front of his kayak, about 30 feet away, close but not too close - or the animal's powerful dive will submerge him and he will likely drown.
  • Makah whalers threw harpoons on three occasions, but the harpoons did not attach to a gray whale on any of these attempts.
spear, trident, arrow, dart, barb
rare gaff, leister


[with object] Back to top  
Spear with a harpoon: Gilbert’s father harpooned a five-metre basking shark
More example sentences
  • For a monarch caterpillar, ingesting milkweed poisons is not a surefire defense against a predatory stinkbug, which harpoons its victims before sucking up the body fluids.
  • Government-owned radio RTHK said Lever tried to harpoon the croc but missed because it was too far away.
  • When a whale was sighted in the bay, boats from the rival stations would race to be the first to harpoon the animal.


early 17th century (denoting a barbed dart or spear): from French harpon, from harpe 'dog's claw, clamp', via Latin from Greek harpē 'sickle'.



More example sentences
  • Into the early twentieth century, before the decline of the whaling industry, Cape Verdeans were prominent on the Whalers, serving in every capacity from ship captains to harpooners to shipmates.
  • The two men became fast friends, both signing on as harpooners aboard the Pequod, a Quaker-owned whaler out of Nantucket.
  • Foremost among the whalers was the harpooner and among the great harpooners the name of Ollivierre stands out.

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