When you harass someone, you bother them to the point of exhaustion. It’s not that each attack is so severe, it’s the constant small attacks that wear someone out. If you harass your boss for a raise, you might end up getting fired instead!

Harass probably comes from the Old French word harer meaning “to set a dog on.” Think of someone being hounded when you use this word. You can harass your parents with questions or requests, but in turn, they can also harass you to clean your room! While this is annoying, it’s much worse if you are harassed in the sense of being verbally abused. The bully at school who harasses some poor kid will be subject to disciplinary action if a complaint is filed.

Definitions of harass
  1. verb

    annoy continually or chronically

    beset, chevvy, chevy, chivvy, chivy, harry, hassle, molest, plague, provoke
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    goad, needle

    goad or provoke, as by constant criticism
    bedevil, crucify, dun, frustrate, rag, torment

    treat cruelly

    harass by imposing humiliating or painful tasks, as in military institutions

    drive up the wall; get on someone’s nerves

    make ineffective or powerless
    badger, beleaguer, bug, pester, tease

    annoy persistently
    oppress, persecute

    cause to suffer
    type of:

    annoy, bother, chafe, devil, get at, get to, gravel, irritate, nark, nettle, rag, rile, vex

    cause annoyance in; disturb, especially by minor irritations

  2. verb

    exhaust by attacking repeatedly

    harass the enemy”
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    type of:

    aggress, attack

    take the initiative and go on the offensive

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