late 14c., from Gk. Harpyia
(pl.), lit. "snatchers," probably related to harpazein
"to snatch" (see rapid
). In Homer, personification of whirlwinds and hurricanes; in Hesiod called sisters of Aello and Iris; later represented as ministers of divine vengeance: winged, clawed monsters with female heads and bodies. Metaphoric extension to "greedy person" is c.1400.