Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun har·bor \ˈhär-bər\

Simple Definition of harbor

  • : a part of the ocean, a lake, etc., that is next to land and that is protected and deep enough to provide safety for ships

  • : a place of safety and comfort

Full Definition of harbor

  1. 1 :  a place of security and comfort :  refuge

  2. 2 :  a part of a body of water protected and deep enough to furnish anchorage; especially :  one with port facilities

har·bor·ful play \-ˌfu̇l\ noun
har·bor·less play \-ləs\ adjective

Examples of harbor

  1. <the tanker stayed in Boston harbor three days to undergo repairs>

  2. <seeking a harbor from the drenching rain, we unfortunately chose a bank where a robbery was taking place>

Origin of harbor

Middle English herberge, herberwe, from Old English herebeorg military quarters, from here army (akin to Old High German heri) + beorg refuge; akin to Old English burg fortified town — more at harry, borough

First Known Use: 12th century

Other Nautical Terms

Rhymes with harbor



verb har·bor

Simple Definition of harbor

  • : to give shelter to (someone) : to hide and protect (someone)

  • : to have (something, such as a thought or feeling) in your mind for a long time

  • : to hold or contain (something)

Full Definition of harbor

har·boredhar·bor·ing play \-b(ə-)riŋ\

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to give shelter or refuge to b :  to be the home or habitat of <the ledges still harbor rattlesnakes>; broadly :  contain 2

  3. 2 :  to hold especially persistently in the mind :  cherish <harbored a grudge>

  4. intransitive verb
  5. 1 :  to take shelter in or as if in a harbor

  6. 2 :  live

har·bor·er play \-bər-ər\ noun

Examples of harbor

  1. It is illegal to harbor an escaped convict.

  2. He still harbors deep feelings of resentment toward his former employer.

  3. I don't harbor any illusions about our chances for success.

  4. She studies the genetic material harbored in a cell's nucleus.

  5. Some of these animals may harbor disease that could affect humans.

12th Century

First Known Use of harbor

12th century

Medical Dictionary


transitive verb har·bor \ˈhär-bər\

Medical Definition of harbor

  1. :  to contain or be the home, habitat, or host of <those who harbor the gene for the illness—William Booth> <green monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops) may have harbored the ancestor of the AIDS virus—R. C. Gallo>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up harbor? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 14, 2016

to hug and kiss another person

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


How much does a batman (the Turkish unit of measurement) weigh?

196.5 pounds 16.96 pounds 100 pounds 2.2 pounds
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.