Definition of harbinger
- the great legal harbinger of the New Deal revolution
- a harbinger of nanotechnology
- the harbingers of peace to a hitherto distracted … people
- —David Livingstone
- robins, crocuses, and other harbingers of spring
her father's successful job interview was seen as a harbinger of better times to come
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'harbinger.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
When medieval travelers needed lodging for the night, they went looking for a harbinger. As long ago as the 12th century, "harbinger" was used to mean "one who provides lodging" or "a host," but that meaning is now obsolete. By the late 1300s, "harbinger" was also being used for a person sent ahead of a main party to seek lodgings, often for royalty or a campaigning army, but that old sense has largely been left in the past, too. Both of those historical senses are true to the Anglo-French parent of "harbinger," the word herberge, meaning "lodgings." The most common sense of the word nowadays, the "forerunner" sense, has been with us since the mid-1500s.
First Known Use: 14th centurySee Words from the same year
the hope that the housing slump does not harbinger a general economic recession
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