(2 syl.). Vultures with the head and breasts of a woman, very fierce and loathsome, living in an atmosphere of filth and stench, and contaminating everything which they came near. Homer mentions but one harpy. Hesiod gives two, and later writers three. The names indicate that these monsters were personifications of whirlwinds and storms. Their names were Ocypeta (rapid), Celeno (blackness), and Aëll'o (storm). (Greek harpuiai, verb harpazo, to seize; Latin harpyia. See Virgil: Æneid, iii. 219, etc.).
“I will ... do you any embassage ... rather than hold three words
conference with this harpy.” —
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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