Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Lacking a sense of responsibility; reckless.
  • adv. With abandon; recklessly.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. wild, careless, irresponsible
  • adv. wildly, carelessly, irresponsibly

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Wild; giddy; flighty; rash; thoughtless.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Harebrained; flighty; giddy; rash.
  • n. A giddy, harebrained, or rash person.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a reckless impetuous irresponsible person
  • adv. in a wild or reckless manner
  • adj. cheerfully irresponsible

Etymologies

Perhaps alteration of hare 'em, scare 'em : hare, to frighten + scare.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • They may prefer to dive into a thrilling, suspenseful harum-scarum world when they read.

    My new secret boyfriend

  • Once you get above chapter book level, it seems like almost all new fiction for kids is (or wants to be) thrilling, exciting, harum-scarum, suspenseful, non-stop, etc.

    Archive 2009-05-01

  • Such encounters were relatively common in the harum-scarum chaos of an early solar system that teemed with veering planets and asteroids.

    The Loneliest Planet

  • Besides, had not her own cousin, -- though a remote and distant one to be sure, the black sheep, the harum-scarum, the ne'er-do-well, -- had not he come down out of that weird North country with a hundred thousand in yellow dust, to say nothing of a half-ownership in the hole from which it came?

    THE ONE THOUSAND DOZEN

  • And yet, he was just turned forty was clear-eyed, calm-hearted, hearty-pulsed, man-strong; and yet, his history, until he was thirty, had been harum-scarum and erratic to the superlative.

    CHAPTER IV

  • The courts affirmed this limited and narrow understanding until the New Deal, when Congress began to regulate harum-scarum and the Supreme Court inflated the clause into a general license for anything a majority happened to favor.

    The Constitutional Moment

  • "It used to be more harum-scarum, but now people are a lot safer," he said.

    Workplace Fatalities Declined Last Year

  • He took a vacation to Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, with “an attractive companion,” and made another trip home, where my grandfather noticed what he called a “sweet reasonableness” interrupted only by a moment of high tension “due possibly to the three harum-scarum children who were visiting.”

    Into the Story

  • Chip was harum-scarum (an expression Madam Ma often used) but he was lovable, not always punctual but someone you could rely on.

    Beard

  • ‘Croker and Lover’, Yeats had written in 1888, ‘full of the ideas of harum-scarum Irish gentility, saw everything humorised’ Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, ed.

    Later Articles and Reviews

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Comments

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  • Harum-scarum gusts of wind turned the leaves this way and that.

    - William Steig, Farmer Palmer's Wagon Ride

    September 21, 2008

  • Delightful as she was in other people's houses, she was still more naively fascinating in her own quaint and somewhat harum-scarum domicile...

    - Harold Frederic, The Damnation of Theron Ware, ch. 2

    July 31, 2008

  • My little harum-scarum beauty knows not what strange histories every woman living, who has had the least independence of will, could tell her, were such to be as communicative as she is...

    Lovelace to Belford, Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

    December 17, 2007

  • Uhh... No. At least, not that I know of. There are some with pretty doofy titles though.

    Edit: see also harum scarum, for an example. I've also seen it spelled "harem scarem."

    October 16, 2007

  • Hmm. Is there a fife tune called pell-mell, too?

    I think this came from "hare 'em, scare 'em" originally. "Hare it" once meant "to run with great speed" (like a rabbit or hare). You ask me, the "scare 'em" part should have come first, though. :-)

    October 16, 2007

  • Intellesting. I didn't know this was a real word. It's quite a famous fife tune.
    Well, if I'd thought about it at all, I might have figured someone named it that for a reason...

    October 16, 2007