Harassment (// or //) covers a wide range of behaviours 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 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 harassement, 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 there are the first records in a Latin to French translation of 1527 of Thucydides’ History of the war that was between the Peloponnesians and the Athenians 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, 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.
Although the French origin of the word harassment is beyond all question, in the Oxford English Dictionary 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 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, 477 U.S. 57 (1986): 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 signed a law which prohibited the transmission of annoying messages over the Internet (aka spamming) 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 prohibited sexual harassment in workplaces under federal jurisdiction.
United Kingdom 
Differences between harassment and bullying 
Harassment is an action that is meant to or happens to cause discomfort for the victim. Bullying is when one individual, or party, socially degrades the victim either for the purpose of increasing their own self-comfort or for the enjoyment of others.
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.
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 
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, "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.
Police harassment 
Unfair treatment conducted by law officials, including but not limited to excessive force, profiling, threats, coercion, and racial, ethnic, religious, gender/sexual, age, or other forms of discrimination.
See also 
- J. Amyot, Œuvres morales, p. 181
- M. Lescarbot, Histoire de la Nouvelle France, I, 479
- Etymology of harassement in the French etymologic dictionary CNRTL (in French)
- The original text of the chant
- Etymology of harasser in the French etymologic dictionary CNRTL (in French)
- Centre national de ressources textuelles et lexicales
- Etymology of haro
- Etymology of haras
- Etymology of harassment in OED related harass dictionaries,like the Merriam Webster
- Declan McCullagh. Create an e-annoyance, go to jail. CNET news. January 9, 2006
- Office of Justice Programs, F.O.I.A. No. 10-000169, Source: Office of the General Counsel, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice: DOJ F.O.I.A. Document 1 , DOJ F.O.I.A. Document 2 , DOJ F.O.I.A. Document 3
- Candice Nguyen, Central Coast News (January 29, 2011). "Gang Stalking, “Bullying on Steroids”". Central Coast News, KION 46, FOX 35, California. Retrieved 2011-10-13.
- Joe Conger (February 17, 2010). "Stalked, drugged and raped: Is it happening in San Antonio?". KENS 5, San Antonio, TX. Retrieved 2011-10-13.
- Religious terrorism
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