Harassment covers a wide range of behaviors of an offensive nature. It is commonly understood as behaviour intended to disturb or upset, and it is characteristically repetitive. In the legal sense, it is intentional behaviour which is found threatening or disturbing. Sexual harassment
Sexual harassment
Sexual harassment, is intimidation, bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. In some contexts or circumstances, sexual harassment is illegal. It includes a range of behavior from seemingly mild transgressions and...

 refers to persistent and unwanted sexual advances, typically in the workplace, where the consequences of refusing are potentially very disadvantageous to the victim.


The word is based in English since circa 1618 as loan word from the French , which was in turn already attested in 1572 meaning torment, annoyance, bother, trouble and later as of 1609 was also referred to the condition of being exhausted, overtired. Of the French verb harasser itself we have first records in a Latin to French translation of 1527 of Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

History of the war
History of the Peloponnesian War
The History of the Peloponnesian War is an account of the Peloponnesian War in Ancient Greece, fought between the Peloponnesian League and the Delian League . It was written by Thucydides, an Athenian general who served in the war. It is widely considered a classic and regarded as one of the...

 that was between the Peloponnesians and the Athenians
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 both in the countries of the Greeks and the Romans and the neighbouring places where the translator writes harasser allegedly meaning harceler (to exhaust the enemy by repeated raids); and in the military chant Chanson du franc archer of 1562, where the term is referred to a gaunt jument (de poil fauveau, tant maigre et harassée: of fawn horsehair, so meagre and …) where it is supposed that the verb is used meaning overtired.

A hypothesis about the origin of the verb harasser is harace/harache, which was used in the 14th century in expressions like courre à la harache (to pursue) and prendre aucun par la harache (to take somebody under constraint). The Französisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch
Französisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch
The Französisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch or FEW is the principal etymological dictionary of the Gallo-Romance languages . It was the brainchild of the Swiss philologist Walther von Wartburg.- History :...

, a German etymological dictionary of the French language (1922–2002) compares phonetically and syntactically both harace and harache to the interjection hare and haro by alleging a pejorative and augmentative form. The latter was an exclamation indicating distress and emergency (recorded since 1180) but is also reported later in 1529 in the expression crier haro sur (to arise indignation over somebody). hare 's use is already reported in 1204 as an order to finish public activities as fairs or markets and later (1377) still as command but referred to dogs. This dictionary suggests a relation of haro/hare with the old lower franconian *hara (here) (as by bringing a dog to heel).

While the pejorative of an exclamation and in particular of such an exclamation is theoretically possible for the first word (harace) and maybe phonetically plausible for harache, a semantic, syntactic and phonetic similarity of the verb harasser as used in the first popular attestation (the chant mentioned above) with the word haras should be kept in mind: Already in 1160 haras indicated a group of horses constrained together for the purpose of reproduction and in 1280 it also indicated the enclosure facility itself, where those horses are constrained. The origin itself of harass is thought to be the old Scandinavian hârr with the Romanic suffix –as, which meant grey or dimmish horsehair. Controversial is the etymological relation to the Arabic word for horse whose roman transliteration is faras
Arabian horse
The Arabian or Arab horse is a breed of horse that originated on the Arabian Peninsula. With a distinctive head shape and high tail carriage, the Arabian is one of the most easily recognizable horse breeds in the world. It is also one of the oldest breeds, with archaeological evidence of horses...


Although the French origin of the word harassment is beyond all question, in the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

 and those dictionaries basing on it a supposed Old French verb harer should be the origin of the French verb harasser, despite the fact that this verb cannot be found in French etymologic dictionaries like that of the :fr:Centre national de ressources textuelles et lexical es or the :fr:Trésor de la langue française informatisé (see also their corresponding websites as indicated in the interlinks); since the entry further alleges a derivation from hare, like in the mentioned German etymological dictionary of the French language a possible misprint of harer = har/ass/er = harasser is plausible or cannot be excluded. In those dictionaries the relationship with harassment were an interpretation of the interjection hare as to urge/set a dog on, despite the fact that it should indicate a shout to come and not to go (hare = hara = here; cf. above). The American Heritage Dictionary prudently indicates this origin only as possible.

United States

In 1964, the United States Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation...

 which prohibited discrimination at work on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin and sex. This later became the legal basis for early harassment law. The practice of developing workplace guidelines prohibiting harassment was pioneered in 1969, when the U.S. Department of Defense drafted a Human Goals Charter, establishing a policy of equal respect for both sexes. In Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson
Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson
Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 , marked the United States Supreme Court's recognition of certain forms of sexual harassment as a violation of Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII, and established the standards for analyzing whether conduct was unlawful and when an employer would be...

: the U.S. Supreme Court recognized harassment suits against employers for promoting a sexually hostile work environment. In 2006, U.S.A. President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 signed a law which prohibited the transmission of annoying messages over the Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 (aka spamming
Spam (electronic)
Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately...

) without disclosing the sender's true identity.

New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination ("LAD")

The LAD prohibits employers from discriminating in any job-related action, including recruitment, interviewing, hiring, promotions, discharge, compensation and the terms, conditions and privileges of employment on the basis of any of the law's specified protected categories. These protected categories are race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment), marital status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information liability for military service, or mental or physical disability, including AIDS and HIV related illnesses. The LAD prohibits intentional discrimination based on any of these characteristics. Intentional discrimination may take the form of differential treatment or statements and conduct that reflect discriminatory animus or bias.


In 1984, the Canadian Human Rights Act
Canadian Human Rights Act
The Canadian Human Rights Act is a statute originally passed by the Parliament of Canada in 1977 with the express goal of extending the law to ensure equal opportunity to individuals who may be victims of discriminatory practices based on a set prohibited grounds such as gender, disability, or...

 prohibited sexual harassment in workplaces under federal jurisdiction.

United Kingdom

In the UK there are a number of laws protecting people from harassment, including the Protection from Harassment Act 1997
Protection from Harassment Act 1997
The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 is a piece of United Kingdom law which, among other things, criminalises and creates a right to protection from stalking and persistent bullying in the workplace.-Definition:...

 and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It introduced a number of changes to the existing law, most notably in the restriction and reduction of existing rights and in greater penalties for certain "anti-social" behaviours...



Both because the term is used in common English, and because where the term is defined by law, the law varies by jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted legal body or to a political leader to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility...

, it is difficult to provide any exact definition that is accepted everywhere.

The ambiguity begins with the fact that some kinds of harassment are, or seem to be, unconscious, small, ephemeral and non-actionable. See microinequity
Microinequity, according to Sandler, refers to the ways in which individuals are "either singled out, or overlooked, ignored, or otherwise discounted" based on an unchangeable characteristic such as race or gender. A microinequity generally takes the form of a gesture, different kind of language,...


In some cultures, for instance, simply stating a political opinion
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

 can be seen as unwarranted and a deliberate attempt to intimidate—in a totalitarian society any such statement could be interpreted as an attempt to involve or implicate someone in rebel
Rebellion, uprising or insurrection, is a refusal of obedience or order. It may, therefore, be seen as encompassing a range of behaviors aimed at destroying or replacing an established authority such as a government or a head of state...

 activity, with the implication that refusal could endanger the person's life. More usually, some label such as "anti-social
Anti-social behaviour
Anti-social behaviour is behaviour that lacks consideration for others and that may cause damage to society, whether intentionally or through negligence, as opposed to pro-social behaviour, behaviour that helps or benefits society...

" or related to treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

 is used to label such behaviour—it being treated as an offense against the state, not the person. This resembles the use of psychiatry
Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to the study and treatment of mental disorders. These mental disorders include various affective, behavioural, cognitive and perceptual abnormalities...

 to imprison dissident
A dissident, broadly defined, is a person who actively challenges an established doctrine, policy, or institution. When dissidents unite for a common cause they often effect a dissident movement....

s, which is common in many countries.

Another example is that under some versions of Islamic Law
Islamic law
Islamic law can refer to:*Sharia: The code of conduct enjoined upon Muslims in the Quran*Fiqh: Muslim jurisprudence...

 merely insulting Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 is considered to be a harassment of all believers, and in Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 insulting any faith is usually considered taboo and has legal sanctions. Because of these variations, there is no way even within one society to provide a truly neutral definition of harassment.


However, broad categories of harassment often recognized in law include:
  • Legal harassment — Legal actions against an individual or a group, for example SLAPP suits.
  • Sexual harassment
    Sexual harassment
    Sexual harassment, is intimidation, bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. In some contexts or circumstances, sexual harassment is illegal. It includes a range of behavior from seemingly mild transgressions and...

     (with a much stricter definition in the workplace)
  • Verbal harassment (Probably the most complicated form to deal with)
  • Psychological harassment — repetitive unprovoked intrusions or interruptions
  • Group psychological harassment
  • Hate speech
    Hate speech
    Hate speech is, outside the law, any communication that disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or other characteristic....

     — comments which express or encourage hate towards a particular group


Harassment that can occur on the playground, school, in the workforce (may it be sexual harassment or verbal harassment or sandwich board harassment) or any other place. Usually physical and psychological harassing behaviour perpetrated against an individual, by one or more persons. In recent years bullying in the workplace and in schools has come to light as being much more serious and widespread than previously thought.

Psychological harassment

This is humiliating, intimidating or abusive behaviour which is often difficult to detect leaving no evidence other than victim reports or complaints; this characteristically lowers a person’s self-esteem or causes them torment. This can take the form of verbal comments, engineered episodes of intimidation, aggressive actions or repeated gestures. Falling into this category is workplace harassment by individuals or groups mobbing
Mobbing in the context of human beings either means bullying of an individual by a group in any context. Identified as emotional abuse in the workplace, such as "ganging up" by co-workers, subordinates or superiors, to force someone out of the workplace through rumor, innuendo, intimidation,...


Community-based Harassment — stalking by a group against an individual using repeated distractions that the individual is sensitized to. Media reports of large numbers of coordinated groups stalking individual stalking victims, including a press interview given by an active duty police lieutenant, have described this community-based harassment as gang stalking.

Racial harassment

The targeting of an individual because of their race or ethnicity. The harassment may include words, deeds, and actions that are specifically designed to make the target feel degraded due to their race or ethnicity.

Religious harassment

Verbal, psychological or physical harassment is used against targets because they choose to practice a specific religion. Religious harassment can also include forced and involuntary conversions.

Sexual harassment
Sexual harassment
Sexual harassment, is intimidation, bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. In some contexts or circumstances, sexual harassment is illegal. It includes a range of behavior from seemingly mild transgressions and...

Harassment that can happen anywhere but is most common in the workplace, and schools. It involves unwanted and unwelcome words, deeds, actions, gestures, symbols, or behaviours of a sexual nature that make the target feel uncomfortable.
Gender and sexual orientation harassment fall into this family. Involving children
As a medical diagnosis, pedophilia is defined as a psychiatric disorder in adults or late adolescents typically characterized by a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children...

, "gay" or "homo" is a common insult falling into this category.
The main focus of groups working against sexual harassment is protection for women, but protection for men is coming to light in recent years.

Stalking is a term commonly used to refer to unwanted and obsessive attention by an individual or group to another person. Stalking behaviors are related to harassment and intimidation and may include following the victim in person and/or monitoring them via the internet...

The unauthorized following
Follow (disambiguation)
Follow is the third album by Pakho Chau.Follow may also refer to:* Follow , one member of a partner dance* "Follow" , a 1967 folk rock song-See also:* Fallow * "Follow Follow"* Follows...

 and surveillance
Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people. It is sometimes done in a surreptitious manner...

 of an individual, to the extent that the person's privacy is unacceptably intruded upon, and the victim fears for their safety. According to a U.S. Department of Justice special report, a significant number of people reporting stalking incidents claim that they had been stalked by more than one person, with 18.2% reporting that they were stalked by two people, 13.1% reporting that they had been stalked by three or more. The report did not break down these cases into numbers of victims who claimed to have been stalked by several people individually, and by people acting in concert. Official Department of Justice documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that, of the 13% of victim reports of 3 or more stalkers "acting in concert", 41% of subjects in these cases reported that they were the target of teams or groups of stalkers working together. Media reports of large numbers of coordinated groups stalking individual stalking victims, including a press interview given by an active duty police lieutenant, have described this community-based harassment as gang stalking.

Mobbing in the context of human beings either means bullying of an individual by a group in any context. Identified as emotional abuse in the workplace, such as "ganging up" by co-workers, subordinates or superiors, to force someone out of the workplace through rumor, innuendo, intimidation,...

Violence committed directly or indirectly by a loosely affiliated and organized group of individuals to punish or even execute a person for some alleged offense without a lawful trial. The 'offense' can range from a serious crime like murder to simple expression of undesired ethnic, cultural, or religious attitudes. The issue of the victim's actual guilt or innocence is often irrelevant to the mob, since the mob usually relies on contentions that are unverifiable, unsubstantiated, or completely fabricated.

Hazing is a term used to describe various ritual and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group....

To persecute, harass, or torture in a deliberate, calculated, and planned manner as part of an induction into a group. Because hazing tends to take place as part of a group's initiation rituals, the targeted individual is typically a subordinate or outsider; for example, a fraternity pledge, a new employee, or a first-year military cadet. Hazing is illegal in many instances.

Police harassment

Unfair treatment conducted by law officials, including but not limited to excessive force
Excessive Force
Excessive Force is a musical side project started in 1991 by Sascha Konietzko of KMFDM and Buzz McCoy of My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult.-History:...

, profiling
Profiling, the extrapolation of information about something, based on known qualities, may refer specifically to:* Profiling practices * Forensic profiling, used in several types of forensic sciences* Offender profiling...

, threats
Intimidation is intentional behavior "which would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities" fear of injury or harm. It's not necessary to prove that the behavior was so violent as to cause terror or that the victim was actually frightened.Criminal threatening is the crime of intentionally or...

, coercion
Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner by use of threats or intimidation or some other form of pressure or force. In law, coercion is codified as the duress crime. Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in the desired way...

, and racial, ethnic, religious, gender/sexual, age, or other forms of discrimination
Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. The term began to be...


Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization. It may include false accusations, monitoring, making threats, identity theft, damage to data or equipment, the solicitation of minors for sex, or...

The use of electronic tools such as email or instant messaging to harass or abuse a person or persons. Can also include particularly intense and/or coordinated incidents of trolling, especially when they occur repeatedly and specifically target a single person or group.

Electronic harassment
Electronic harassment
Electronic harassment is a term referring to the use of electronic devices to harass, torture, or physically harm a person, not to be confused with cyberstalking.- Michigan :...

The invisible (to the unaided eye) use of electronic weapons or directed energy weapons to harass or abuse a person or persons.

Sociological harassment

a. Sociological (denoting the source and methods) harassment involves elements of many categories of harassment; once a record is kept of seemingly unrelated elements of harassment, from isolated provocation episodes (inviting a response for ensnarement purposes) to passive-aggressive group intimidation etc. these may merge into a greater whole pointing to certain coordinating individuals belonging to a group however loosely sharing consensus in ideas to be promoted and how this is to be done.

b. This also extends to how individuals and other groups may be moved to submit to this agenda. This takes the form of organized group based psychological harassment with a political or ideological motive in organizational, institutional and academic contexts. It was first observed and described in the United Kingdom 2000 through 2010- ; although similar forms of harassment have always existed this form is characterized by its unusually high level of organization, the ostensible unrelatedness of episodes and incidents, and certain typical phases, patterns and practices.

c. The aim of the controlling group is to obtain maximum control over the targeted or controlled group (inclusive of as many individuals as possible) in an organization or institution. Individuals or even groups who are seen as a threat are eliminated or silenced.

d. Blame or detection for any action is avoided by generalizing the harassment patterns or displacing the initiative to another individual or group who then takes over the initiative. In academic contexts, sociological rationalisations, like 'theories', may be offered when related problems are brought to the attention of authorities so as to explain away criminal or para-criminal practices/appearances. An effective counter to this is to identify possible indirect political justifications in the context of such rationalisations or theories e.g. characteristics of sociological socialism.

Colloquial speech

In some contexts of colloquial speech, the word "harassment" and its derivatives can mean in a playful manner "bothering". In computer gaming contexts, "harassment" might constitute provocative or annoying actions in the game. Harassment in strategy games may also mean early attacks aimed to stunt an opponent's growth of either economy or technology. In these contexts, the severity of the terminology is much less intense, and does not carry the same connotations as the legal definitions.

See also

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.