harbinger

noun
har·​bin·​ger | \ ˈhär-bən-jər How to pronounce harbinger (audio) \

Definition of harbinger

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : something that foreshadows a future event : something that gives an anticipatory sign of what is to come robins, crocuses, and other harbingers of spring
b : one that initiates a major change : a person or thing that originates or helps open up a new activity, method, or technology : pioneer the great legal harbinger of the New Deal revolution— Time a harbinger of nanotechnology the harbingers of peace to a hitherto distracted … people— David Livingstone
2 archaic : a person sent ahead to provide lodgings

harbinger

verb
harbingered; harbingering; harbingers

Definition of harbinger (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to give a warning or prediction of : to be a harbinger (see harbinger entry 1) of harbingered the fall of Rome

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Choose the Right Synonym for harbinger

Noun

forerunner, precursor, harbinger, herald mean one that goes before or announces the coming of another. forerunner is applicable to anything that serves as a sign or presage. the blockade was the forerunner of war precursor applies to a person or thing paving the way for the success or accomplishment of another. 18th century poets like Burns were precursors of the Romantics harbinger and herald both apply, chiefly figuratively, to one that proclaims or announces the coming or arrival of a notable event. their early victory was the harbinger of a winning season the herald of a new age in medicine

Did You Know?

Noun

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.

Examples of harbinger in a Sentence

Noun her father's successful job interview was seen as a harbinger of better times to come Verb the hope that the housing slump does not harbinger a general economic recession
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Given that California is often a harbinger of things to come, this is definitely one to watch. Steve Strauss, USA TODAY, "From workspace to the gig economy, here are the top small-business trends of 2020," 8 Jan. 2020 Hopefully, that’s not a harbinger of the Patriots’ playoff path. BostonGlobe.com, "Patriots face a tough road ahead to keep the dynasty rolling - The Boston Globe," 31 Dec. 2019 But even as House of Cards found a receptive viewership, few could have recognized it as a sign of things to come, a harbinger of the Peak TV era that would subsequently take shape, transforming the face of small-screen storytelling. Isaac Feldberg, Fortune, "How Netflix Transformed the Peak TV Terrain in the 2010s," 19 Dec. 2019 The success of the Brexit referendum in June of 2016 seemed a harbinger of Trump’s victory in November. Fred Bauer, National Review, "The Lessons American Conservatives Can Learn from the Tories’ Victory," 13 Dec. 2019 And tactics applied in the British campaign are but a harbinger of how digital misinformation could affect other coming votes, including next year’s U.S. presidential election. Washington Post, "UK election is full of dirty tricks and political clicks," 5 Dec. 2019 If the indoor temperature can be maintained on the cool side, and the air humid, these harbingers of spring provide delight for two weeks or more. NBC News, "Bring spring indoors early — very early — by forcing bulbs," 4 Dec. 2019 So unless demonstrators give up in frustration, this wave of protest may be less the harbinger of a global revolution than the new status quo. The Economist, "We all want to change the world Economics, demography and social media only partly explain the protests roiling so many countries today," 14 Nov. 2019 Was one person the exception, or a harbinger of another’s fate? Ilana Yurkiewicz, Smithsonian, "The Possibilities and Risks of Genetically Altering Immune Cells to Fight Cancer," 26 Oct. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of harbinger

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Verb

1646, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for harbinger

Noun and Verb

Middle English herbergere, from Anglo-French, host, from herberge camp, lodgings, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German heriberga

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Time Traveler for harbinger

Time Traveler

The first known use of harbinger was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Harbinger.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harbinger. Accessed 24 January 2020.

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More Definitions for harbinger

harbinger

noun
How to pronounce harbinger (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of harbinger

: something that shows what is coming

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