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harpoon

[hahr-poon] /hɑrˈpun/
noun
1.
a barbed, spearlike missile attached to a rope, and thrown by hand or shot from a gun, used for killing and capturing whales and large fish.
2.
(initial capital letter) Military. a jet-powered, radar-guided U.S. Navy cruise missile with a high explosive warhead designed for use against surface ships and launchable from a surface vessel, submerged submarine, or aircraft.
verb (used with object)
3.
to strike, catch, or kill with or as if with a harpoon.
Origin
1590-1600
1590-1600; < Dutch harpoenOld French harpon a clasp, brooch, equivalent to harp- (< Latin harpē < Greek: hook) + -on diminutive suffix
Related forms
harpooner, noun
harpoonlike, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for harpoons

harpoon

/hɑːˈpuːn/
noun
1.
  1. a barbed missile attached to a long cord and hurled or fired from a gun when hunting whales, etc
  2. (as modifier): a harpoon gun
verb
2.
(transitive) to spear with or as if with a harpoon
Derived Forms
harpooner, harpooneer, noun
harpoon-like, adjective
Word Origin
C17: probably from Dutch harpoen, from Old French harpon clasp, from harper to seize, perhaps of Scandinavian origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for harpoons

harpoon

n.

1610s, from French harpon, from Old French harpon "cramp iron, clamp, clasp" (described as a mason's tool for fastening stones together), from harper "to grapple, grasp," possibly of Germanic origin, or from Latin harpa- "hook" (cf. harpagonem "grappling hook," from Greek *harpagon, related to harpe "sickle"). Earlier harping-iron (mid-15c.). Sense and spelling perhaps influenced by Dutch (cf. Middle Dutch harpoen) or Basque, the language of the first whaling peoples, who often accompanied English sailors on their early expeditions. Also see -oon.

v.

1774, from harpoon (n.). Related: Harpooned; harpooning. For agent-noun forms, harpooner is from 1726; harpooneer from 1610s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for harpoons

harpoon

barbed spear used to kill whales, tuna, swordfish, and other large sea creatures, formerly thrown by hand but now, in the case of whales, shot from especially constructed guns

Learn more about harpoon with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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