Synonyms: harass, harry, hound, badger, pester, plague
These verbs mean to trouble persistently or incessantly. Harass and harry imply systematic persecution by besieging with repeated annoyances, threats, or demands: The landlord harassed tenants who were behind in their rent. A rude customer had harried the storekeeper.
Hound suggests unrelenting pursuit to gain a desired end: Reporters hounded the celebrity for an interview.
To badger is to nag or tease persistently: The child badgered his parents for a new bicycle.
To pester is to inflict a succession of petty annoyances: "How she would have pursued and pestered me with questions and surmises" (Charlotte Brontė).
Plague refers to a problem likened to an epidemic disease: "As I have no estate, I am plagued with no tenants or stewards" (Henry Fielding).
Usage Note: Educated usage appears to be evenly divided on the pronunciation of harass. In our 1987 survey 50 percent of the Usage Panel preferred stressing the first syllable, while 50 percent preferred stressing the second. Curiously, the Panelists' comments appear to indicate that each side regards itself as an embattled minority.