• To deliver an impassioned or furious criticism, usually toward a person


  • A speech or address of a fiery or critical nature


Most of us try to stay on peoples’ good sides. Besides the fact that it’s the nice thing to do, it makes life a lot easier when we do what we can to keep the people around us happy. However, as hard as we try not to, we all just as surely do something that upsets someone else eventually, if only inadvertently. The best we can hope for is that they take it for the honest mistake it is and don’t answer it with a harangue.

A harangue is an incisively critical, and usually angry, declamation made by one person toward another. The subject that a harangue addresses, or whether its criticism is even justified, is irrelevant - if a speech is fiery and condemnatory, it is a harangue. Thus, your roommate could just as easily hurl a harangue at you for running an errand they said they’d take care of as could your boss after you submit your report late.

The word harangue can also be employed as a verb to describe the act of making such a furious castigation. If your roommate is particularly forgetful and hot-tempered, that harangue you got for their oversight might not be the first time they harangued you. In short, any time one could characterize a verbal or written message as a harangue, the one delivering the message could be said to harangue the recipient.

Example: He gave his students such a harangue for their poor test scores that they were grim-faced for the rest of the lecture.

Example: Determined not to let their professor harangue them again, the students studied hard for the next exam.


While the verb form of harangue dates back to the mid-17th century, deriving from the French haranguer and the Middle French verb harangue before it, the noun form traces back even further. The word first came to English in the form of the Middle English word arang, which also stemmed from the Middle French noun harangue (an older version of the verb form), meaning “a public speech.” This, in turn, came from the Old Italian word aringa, meaning “public square” or “dais.” Originally, this comes from the Old High German word for “circle,” hring, as in a circle of people gathered to meet or hear a speech.

Derivative Words

Harangues: This third-person conjugation of harangue indicates when a he or she is the one issuing a scathing indictment.

Example: Even though it is only Clara’s second week, her boss harangues her if she forgets even one of the company’s many arcane policies.

Harangued: The past tense form denotes when a sharp condemnation was given at some earlier point.

Example: The student showed up five minutes early for every class after his teacher harangued him for his chronic tardiness.

Haranguing: The present progressive of harangue signifies that someone is currently in the process of condemning someone else.

Example: His mother did not stop haranguing him for picking on his sister until he promised to apologize.

Haranguer: This noun form of harangue is used to identify a person who is articulating a mercilessly critical view.

Example: The pundit made his career by becoming a ruthless haranguer of any policies that officials in one party enacted.

Similar Words

When your subject is angry, irritated or feels strongly about something, there is an apt word for every nuance of what verbal form that emotion takes. Besides harangue, here are some to choose from:

Diatribe: A diatribe is a long, harsh, and often vitriolic verbal or written statement aimed at a particular subject, be it a person or thing. Unlike harangue, diatribe has no verb form, and so only refers to the actual verbal assault. Another notable difference between the two is that while a harangue may be lengthy, a diatribe always connotes that the critical monologue is particularly prolonged.

Example: The primatologist was so touchy on the distinction between apes and monkeys that anyone who ran afoul of it would suffer a sharp diatribe.

Rant: A rant is a fervid and often loud one-sided verbal or written declamation. While often critical in nature, like a harangue, a rant can simply be a passionate statement or argument by one party. A rant also strongly implies that the words issue spontaneously or without organization, usually as a function of the personal investment of the ranter. Rant can also be used as a verb to mean the uttering or writing of a drawn-out, high-volume lecture.

Example: He went on a rant about his love for single-origin coffee as soon as his friend offered him a blended roast.

Example: She did not always rant about latecomers to work, but today the boss was particularly irritable.

Screed: Screed is a noun for a caustic, critical, and usually lengthy spoken or written declaration. Like with diatribe, it does not have a verb form, but it does share the attribute of length that is common to a rant and a diatribe.

Example: His screed about the ills of money in politics made him a resonant political figure.

Tirade: A tirade (pronounced “TIY-rayd”) is a prolonged and aggressive speech criticizing or leveling an accusation against a person or thing. As with screed and diatribe, tirade also lacks a verb form and connotes length in one’s statement.

Example: Despite her frequent tirades about the ills of the Internet, the traditional journalist failed to bolster the ailing print industry she had long worked in.

In Literature

From David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men:

Nevertheless, the therapist had made it clear from the outset that she was in no way going to pressure, hector, cajole, argue, persuade, flummox, trick, harangue, shame, or manipulate the depressed person into letting go of her arrested or vestigial defenses before she (i.e., the depressed person) felt ready and able to risk taking the leap of faith in her own internal resources and self-esteem and personal growth and healing to do so (i.e., to leave the nest of her defenses and freely and joyfully fly).

In this passage, the narrator clarifies that the therapist will not coerce her patient, including by making sharp critiques (or haranguing), into opening up to her, instead allowing the healing process to unfold naturally.


  • A harangue is so intensely critical that it may harm the recipient emotionally.

  • A harangue is so unpleasant you might exclaim “hooray!” when it’s over.

  • If you don’t follow your mom’s lemon meringue recipe, she might harangue you!

  • A zoologist might harangue you for confusing an orangutan with a gorilla.


Criticism, Anger, Communication

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of harangue. Did you use harangue in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.