Harry (name)

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Harry has several meanings.

  • There is a proper noun with different applications`, one male and the other female:
  • Harry is a short form of the forename Henry (male)
    Harriet (female. There are two main types of such shortenings: they are convenient for writing, e.g. in lists; or they are essentially spoken pet-names, and thus informal. (See Conventional abbreviations for forenames.)
Short form Long form Informal or written Other short forms Remarks
Harry Henry (male)
Harriet (female
informal Hal (m)
Hatty (f)
When Harry is a girl, she is usually formally Harriet, not Henrietta

There is a list of similar names at Conventional abbreviations for forenames, as well as the category:short names

Note that any informal form may be spelled in different ways. Notably, any spelling listed that ends in '-ie' may be written with the ending '-y', and vice versa.
The male name has given rise to several colloquial usages.
    • It has been a euphemism for 'Hell' or 'the Devil' in various forms of swearing: "My gout has been playing Old Harry [= 'merry hell'] with my big toe" is roughly 'has been causing me much pain in my toe'; and "By the Lord Harry" as been a more or less meaningless interjection since at least 1687.
    • Harry has been applied to several characters, such as Henry VIII, and, in Shakespeare's Henry V, to Henry Percy, nicknamed Harry Hotspur. Shakespeare's Henry V himself fights the battle of Harfleur on the slogan of "God for Harry, England, and Saint George!" (III i 34)
    • The coin called a harry[-noble], sometimes a henry, was minted in the reign of Henry VI.
      • The Great Harry was the nickname given to Henry Grace à Dieu, the largest warship in Henry VIII's fleet.
    • Harry's Bar is the name of several famous American-style bars, in Florence, Rome and Venice, much patronized by rich tourists. The first to be called Harry's appears to be that in Venice; the others have no connection. There may be thousands of others around the worlds, opened in homage - or as commercial rip-offs.
  • Informal uses of the name Harry include "Flash Harry", someone who dresses in clothes of 'over-the-top' taste; a loud, show-off person (with connotations of dishonesty; a spiv); and the phrase "[every] Tom Dick and Harry", 'ordinary people', a hypothetical random sample; or a dismissive term for 'the ordinary people [not like us]'.
  • 'To harry' is a verb meaning 'to raid', 'to cause trouble to'. Originally a military term applied to two activities
    • incursions by armed forces, with the aim of causing damage, capturing goods and so on, without occupation. Sometimes these are punitive, like the Harrying of the North by William the Conqueror in 1069-1070, as punishment for rebellion: whole villages were destroyed, crops and seed-corn removed, and fields salted to destroy their fertility; the aim was to lay the country waste.
    • the constant small attacks delivered on a marching army by skirmishers.
      • This meaning has been transferred to various team sports, notably rugby, where a team may focus on ';harrying' a scrum-half - making him teh constant focus of tackling, despoiling tactics.
      • More generally, 'to harry' is "To worry, goad, torment, harass; to maltreat, ill-use, persecute; to worry mentally" (OED, harry, v. 4.). The verb 'to harass', which may be confused sometimes because of the similarity of sound, is perhaps preferable to harry for this effect in personal life: children may harass a mother, rather more accurately than they harry her.