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

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?

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. Later on, 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. Those sent ahead would announce the approach of who was following behind, and that's how our modern sense of harbinger (from the Anglo-French herberge, meaning "lodgings") acquired the sense with which we are familiar today, that of something which foretells a future event.

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 Saturday night provided some sunshine that could be a harbinger of positive things to come. Erick Smith, USA TODAY, 18 Sep. 2022 Conservative billionaire Phil Anschutz is building the farm in Wyoming, and the audacious plan is a harbinger of what’s coming for communities across the West. Jason Sanchez, Los Angeles Times, 27 Aug. 2022 But these expenses are partially reflected in what Americans pay for goods and services, and a high number is generally viewed as a harbinger of rising prices on consumer goods. Martha C. White For Cnn Business, CNN, 11 Aug. 2022 The device serves as a harbinger – and, to 4DX novices, perhaps a warning — of the full-tilt sensory experience that is about to unfold as Brad Pitt fights for his life against an army of opposing assassins. J. Kim Murphy, Variety, 5 Aug. 2022 That memory has stuck in my mind as a harbinger of what may lie ahead for our culture. WSJ, 3 Aug. 2022 After making plans to eliminate two classrooms earlier this year – seen by some as a harbinger of closure – the district faced blowback from parents and teachers. The Christian Science Monitor, 1 Aug. 2022 Will the erosion of wealth in the Philippines be a harbinger of the future? Justin Doebele, Forbes, 12 Aug. 2022 For the Catholic conservatives who then seemed to be on the wrong side of US history, victory in Ireland was a harbinger of a possible American future. Fintan O’toole, The New York Review of Books, 3 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

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

Middle English herbergere, herberjour, herbeger, harbenyowre "member of a noble or royal retinue who assigns lodgings to guests or rides ahead to prepare an encampment, host, innkeeper," borrowed from Anglo-French herberger, herberjur (continental Old French herbergeor), from herberger "to lodge, shelter, encamp" (continental Old French herbergier, borrowed from Old Low Franconian *haribergōn, going back to Germanic *haribergōjan- "to set up quarters for an army") + -er, -eor -er entry 2 — more at harbor entry 2

Note: The form harbinger with lowering of e to a in the initial syllable and intrusive -n- (compare messenger, passenger), rare in late Middle English, became the general form by the seventeenth century.

Verb

derivative of harbinger entry 1

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

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Dictionary Entries Near harbinger

Harbin

harbinger

harbinger-of-spring

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Last Updated

20 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Harbinger.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harbinger. Accessed 1 Oct. 2022.

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