Intermediate+ Word of the Day: hound

hound (noun, verb) /haʊnd/ LISTEN

A hound is any of several breeds of dog used for hunting, often having a long face and large drooping ears. Informally, any dog can be called a hound, and a mean and contemptible man can be called a hound as well, although this is now dated. A devotee or enthusiast of something is also a hound (in this sense, the name of the thing the person is a devotee of always comes before hound). As a verb, to hound means ‘to persecute, harass’ or, usually followed by on, ‘to incite or urge someone to do something.’

Example sentences

  • The hunter walked through the woods, followed by his hounds.
  • "Will you keep that hound quiet!" Rachel shouted at the neighbor, whose dog had woken her up again.
  • You're nothing but a no-good hound!
  • The politician was a real publicity hound.
  • The boss keeps hounding me about when I'm going to get this project finished.
  • The ringleaders hounded the rioters on.

Words often used with hound

follow the hounds, ride to hounds: to participate in a hunt on horseback using hounds. This used to be a common method of hunting foxes in the UK, but it was banned in Scotland in 2002 and in England and Wales in 2005 (it is still legal in Northern Ireland). The hunts still ride, but they are no longer allowed to hunt live animals, so they follow artificially laid trails instead.

In pop culture

The third of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels about the detective Sherlock Holmes is entitled The Hound of the Baskervilles. You can see the trailer for the 1959 movie adaptation of the novel, produced by Hammer Film productions and starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, here:

Did you know?

The Hound of the Baskervilles is set mainly on Dartmoor in Devon (South West England) and it is thought that Conan Doyle may have taken his inspiration from the local landmark Hound Tor. A tor is a rocky hill and there are many of them on Dartmoor. Hound Tor got its name because the rocks at its summit are said to resemble the heads of hounds. There is even a local legend that they are real hounds who were turned to stone. You can read more about Hound Tor here.


Hound dates back to before the year 900. The Old English noun hund, which was spelled either hund or hound in Middle English, originally meant ‘dog’ (any kind), though the sense narrowed in the 12th century to ‘dog used for hunting.’ It can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic hundas and the Proto-Indo-European root kwon- (dog). It is related to the Old Saxon and Old Frisian hund, Old High German hunt, German Hund, Old Norse hundr, Gothic hunds, all of which mean ‘dog,’ as well as many words in meaning ‘dog’ in other languages, including the Sanskrit svan-, the Avestan spa, the Greek kyon, the Latin canis, the Old Irish cu and the Welsh ci, not to mention modern Romance-language words for dog that derive from the Latin, such as the Spanish can, the Italian cane and the French chien. It is also related, through the PIE root, to English words like canine, corgi, kennel and even canary. The figurative sense for a ‘mean and contemptible man’ has been used since Old English. The verb comes from the noun and, meaning ‘to hunt with hounds,’ dates back to the early 16th century. The figurative sense ‘to persecute or harass’ appeared around the year 1600.

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