Denotation vs. Connotation


[hahrp] /hɑrp/
a musical instrument consisting of a triangular frame formed by a soundbox, a pillar, and a curved neck, and having strings stretched between the soundbox and the neck that are plucked with the fingers.
anything that resembles this instrument, especially in having a row of parallel strings or wires, as various mechanical devices or kitchen implements for slicing cheese.
a vertical metal frame shaped to bend around the bulb in a standing lamp and used to support a lamp shade.
Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive. a contemptuous term used to refer to a person of Irish birth or descent.
Also called harper. any of several English coins issued for use in Ireland during the 16th and 17th centuries, bearing the figure of a harp on the reverse.
South Midland and Southern U.S. a mouth harp; harmonica.
verb (used without object)
to play on a harp.
Verb phrases
harp on/upon, to dwell on persistently or tediously in speaking or writing:
He was always harping on the importance of taking vitamin supplements.
Origin of harp
before 900; Middle English harpe, Old English hearpe; cognate with Dutch harp, German Harfe, Old Norse harpa
Related forms
harplike, adjective
unharped, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for harp upon
Historical Examples
  • But Joe had got the idea of a present in his head and must harp upon it.

    Great Expectations Charles Dickens
  • And why did he harp upon this name Gessner, Richard Gessner!

    Aladdin of London Sir Max Pemberton
  • It is the nature of grief and remorse to harp upon the one dear form, the one most vivid pain.

    The Expositor's Bible George Adam Smith
  • But Murphy continued to harp upon the subject of domestic preparedness.

    The Lookout Man B. M. Bower
  • Threats of prayer, however, that harp upon their sincerity, are not very well worth having.

  • She laid her harp upon the shrine, and to her surprise the strings began to quiver of their own accord!

    The Ravens and the Angels Elizabeth Rundle Charles
  • And he wrapped his old cloak about him, and hung his harp upon his back, and went out from the king's palace without another word.

    The Story-teller Maud Lindsay
  • He hung his harp upon the willow; he sat down by the streams of Babylon and wept.

    Adle Dubois Mrs. William T. Savage
  • It seemed to quiver like the chords of a harp upon which a hand is laid.

    Meg's Friend Alice Abigail Corkran
  • I mention about the division of the estate to you, dear Lizzie, because when it is done the papers will harp upon it.

    Behind the Scenes Elizabeth Keckley
British Dictionary definitions for harp upon


a large triangular plucked stringed instrument consisting of a soundboard connected to an upright pillar by means of a curved crossbar from which the strings extend downwards. The strings are tuned diatonically and may be raised in pitch either one or two semitones by the use of pedals (double-action harp). Basic key: B major; range: nearly seven octaves
something resembling this, esp in shape
an informal name (esp in pop music) for harmonica
(intransitive) to play the harp
(transitive) (archaic) to speak; utter; express
(intransitive; foll by on or upon) to speak or write in a persistent and tedious manner
Derived Forms
harper, harpist, noun
Word Origin
Old English hearpe; related to Old Norse harpa, Old High German harfa, Latin corbis basket, Russian korobit to warp
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for harp upon



Old English hearpe, from Proto-Germanic *kharpon- (cf. Old Saxon harpa "instrument of torture;" Old Norse harpa, Dutch harp, Old High German harpfa, German Harfe "harp"). Late Latin harpa, source of words in some Romanic languages, is a borrowing from Germanic. Meaning "harmonica" is from 1887, short for mouth-harp. The harp seal (1784) is so called for the harp-shaped markings on its back.


Old English hearpian; see harp (n.). Cognate with Middle Dutch, Dutch harpen, Middle High German harpfen, German harfen. Figurative sense of "talk overmuch" (about something) first recorded mid-15c., originally to harp upon one string. Related: Harped; harping.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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harp upon in Culture

harp definition

An instrument in the string section of the orchestra. The orchestral harp is several feet tall and has pedals that allow the harpist to change the key of the instrument as necessary.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for harp upon



  1. An Irish person or one of Irish descent (1904+)
  2. A harmonica (1887+)
  3. Phencyclidine or PCP, a narcotic (1990s+ Narcotics)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Related Abbreviations for harp upon


Health Administration Responsibility Project
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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harp upon in the Bible

(Heb. kinnor), the national instrument of the Hebrews. It was invented by Jubal (Gen. 4:21). Some think the word _kinnor_ denotes the whole class of stringed instruments. It was used as an accompaniment to songs of cheerfulness as well as of praise to God (Gen. 31:27; 1 Sam. 16:23; 2 Chr. 20:28; Ps. 33:2; 137:2). In Solomon's time harps were made of almug-trees (1 Kings 10:11, 12). In 1 Chr. 15:21 mention is made of "harps on the Sheminith;" Revised Version, "harps set to the Sheminith;" better perhaps "harps of eight strings." The soothing effect of the music of the harp is referred to 1 Sam. 16:16, 23; 18:10; 19:9. The church in heaven is represented as celebrating the triumphs of the Redeemer "harping with their harps" (Rev. 14:2).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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