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 Across the country, the arrival of a vaccine was hailed as a harbinger of the pandemic’s eventual end. New York Times, "The High-Risk Group Left Out of New York’s Vaccine Rollout," 26 Jan. 2021 Sure, the players are being tested every day, which is irritating to those who can’t get timely testing and could be a harbinger of the league’s attempts to get vaccinated out of turn. Ann Killion, SFChronicle.com, "NBA opted to play with coronavirus fire and now it’s getting burned," 11 Jan. 2021 The futures market that opened for trading on Dec. 7 isn’t a harbinger of savage bloodletting over dwindling water supplies. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Wall Street can now bet on the price of California water. Watch out," 3 Jan. 2021 Still, staff fear the deluge of December is a harbinger of a long, deadly winter. Author: Matt Hamilton And Rong-gong Lin Ii, Anchorage Daily News, "It’s ‘World War III,’ says LA County doctor beset by intensely sick COVID-19 patients," 3 Jan. 2021 The crowds were much smaller than in past years and the safety protocols in place were a harbinger of the times, but that could not diminish the excitement and enthusiasm that the running community was enjoying. Emmett Hall, sun-sentinel.com, "Jingle Bell Jog 5K brings out Christmas spirit in road racers," 23 Dec. 2020 House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland displayed flexibility in an appearance on CNN on Sunday that Republicans interpreted as a harbinger of further Democratic retreat. Andrew Taylor, ajc, "Crunch time for COVID-19 relief as bipartisan bills unveiled," 14 Dec. 2020 House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland displayed flexibility in an appearance on CNN on Sunday that Republicans interpreted as a harbinger of further Democratic retreat. Andrew Taylor, chicagotribune.com, "Second stimulus check updates: Crunch time for COVID-19 relief as bipartisan bills are unveiled," 14 Dec. 2020 And the harbinger of a future property on the school circuit or maybe even in some professional incarnation. Washington Post, "Judy and Mickey would have loved the TikTok ‘Ratatouille’ — 2021’s answer to ‘Let’s put on a show!’," 2 Jan. 2021

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

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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Time Traveler for harbinger

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

28 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Harbinger.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harbinger. Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for harbinger

harbinger

noun

English Language Learners Definition of harbinger

: something that shows what is coming

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