August 21, 2012
banshee (noun)
\BAN-shee\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: a female spirit in Gaelic folklore whose wailing warns that a death will occur soon
How do you use it?
When Carlos scored a goal in the championship game, he jumped around, screaming like a banshee.
Are you a word wiz?

We don't know about female spirits, but we do know of some spirited females. Which of these women were active at the time "banshee" first appeared in English?

Holler if you picked B! "Banshee" showed up in the late 1700s, around the time Catherine the Great ruled Russia. The original "banshee" wasn't someone you wanted to have around. In Gaelic folklore, the appearance or wailing of a female spirit, who was known in Irish as a "bean sidhe" and in Scottish Gaelic as a "bean sith," was a warning that someone in the family was going to die. In the 1700s, English speakers adopted the name of the spirit as "banshee." Today we use "banshee" to suggest a mournful cry or an earsplitting scream, as in "cried like a banshee."
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