Etymology
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plague (v.)

late 15c. (Caxton), "infest with disease or other natural calamity," from Middle Dutch plaghen, from plaghe (n.) "plague" (see plague (n.)). The sense of "vex, harass, bother, annoy" is recorded from 1590s. Related: Plagued; plaguing.

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excruciate (v.)

"to torture, torment, inflict very severe pain on," as if by crucifying, 1560s, from Latin excruciatus, past participle of excruciare "to torture, torment, rack, plague;" figuratively "to afflict, harass, vex, torment," from ex "out, out from; thoroughly" (see ex-) + cruciare "cause pain or anguish to," literally "crucify," from crux (genitive crucis) "a cross" (see crux).

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hassle (n.)
"fuss, trouble," 1945, American English (in "Down Beat" magazine), perhaps from U.S. Southern dialectal hassle "to pant, breathe noisily" (1928), of unknown origin; or perhaps from hatchel "to harass" (1800), which may be a variant of hazel, the name of the plant that furnished switches for whippings. Noted in 1946 as a show biz vogue word.
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gall (v.)
"to make sore by chafing," mid-15c., from gall (n.2). Earlier "to have sores, be sore" (early 14c.). Figurative sense of "harass, vex, irritate, chafe the spirit of," is from 1570s. A past-participle adjective gealled is found in Old English, but OED says this is from the noun. Related: Galled; galling.
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molest (v.)

late 14c., molesten, "to cause trouble, grief, or vexation, disturb, harass," from Old French molester "to torment, trouble, bother" (12c.) and directly from Latin molestare "to disturb, trouble, annoy," from molestus "troublesome, annoying, unmanageable," which is perhaps related to moles "mass" (see mole (n.3)) on notion of either "burden" or "barrier." Meaning "sexually assault" is attested by 1950. Related: Molested; molesting.

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annoyance (n.)
late 14c., "vexation, trouble," from Old French enoiance "ill-humor, irritation," from anuiant, present participle of anuier "to be troublesome, annoy, harass" (see annoy). Meaning "state of being annoyed" is from c. 1500, as is the sense of "that which annoys." Earlier, annoying was used in the sense of "act of offending" (c. 1300) and a noun annoy (c. 1200) in the sense "feeling of irritation, displeasure, distaste."
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importune (v.)

"harass with solicitation, demand persistently," 1520s, back-formation from importunity, or else from French importuner, from Medieval Latin importunari "to make oneself troublesome," from Latin importunus "unfit, unfavorable, troublesome," literally "having no harbor" (thus "difficult to access"), from assimilated form of in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + portus "harbor" (see port (n.1)). Related: Importuned; importuning. As an adjective from early 15c. Portunus was the Roman deity of harbors; hence Portunium "temple of Portunus."

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grieve (v.)

c. 1200, transitive, "to make worried or depressed; to make angry, enrage;" also "to be physically painful, cause discomfort;" c. 1300 as "cause grief to, disappoint, be a cause of sorrow;" also "injure, harass, oppress," from tonic stem of Old French grever "afflict, burden, oppress," from Latin gravare "make heavy; cause grief," from gravis "weighty" (from PIE root *gwere- (1) "heavy"). Intransitive sense of "be sorry, lament" is from c. 1400. Related: Grieved; grieving.

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taw (v.)

"to prepare" (leather), from Old English tawian "prepare, make ready, make; cultivate," also "harass, insult, outrage" to do, make," from Proto-Germanic *tawōjanan (source also of Old Frisian tawa, Old Saxon toian, Middle Dutch tauwen, Dutch touwen, Old High German zouwen "to prepare," Old High German zawen "to succeed," Gothic taujan "to make, prepare"), from Proto-Germanic root *taw- "to make, manufacture" (compare tool (n.)).

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heckle (v.)
early 14c., "to comb (flax or hemp) with a heckle;" from heckle (n.) or from related Middle Dutch hekelen. Figurative meaning "to question severely in a bid to uncover weakness" is from late 18c. "Long applied in Scotland to the public questioning of parliamentary candidates" [OED]. Presumably from a metaphor of rough treatment, but also compare hatchel "to harass" (1800), which may be a variant of hazel, the name of the plant that furnished switches for whippings. Related: Heckled; heckling.
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