har·​bor | \ ˈhär-bər How to pronounce harbor (audio) \
plural harbors

Definition of harbor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a place of security and comfort : refuge the … Loyalists found harbor in the same areas— W. G. Hardy
2 : a part of a body of water protected and deep enough to furnish anchorage a yacht harbor especially : one with port facilities


harbored; harboring\ ˈhär-​b(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce harbor (audio) \; harbors

Definition of harbor (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to give shelter or refuge to harboring a fugitive
b : to be the home or habitat of The ledges still harbor rattlesnakes. broadly : contain sense 2 a town that harbors several textile factories
2 : to hold especially persistently in the mind : cherish harbored a grudge

intransitive verb

1 : to take shelter in or as if in a harbor ships harboring in the bay
2 : live parasites that harbor in the blood

Other Words from harbor


harborful \ ˈhär-​bər-​ˌfu̇l How to pronounce harbor (audio) \ noun
harborless \ ˈhär-​bər-​ləs How to pronounce harbor (audio) \ adjective


harborer \ ˈhär-​bər-​ər How to pronounce harbor (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for harbor

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of harbor in a Sentence

Noun the tanker stayed in Boston harbor three days to undergo repairs seeking a harbor from the drenching rain, we unfortunately chose a bank where a robbery was taking place Verb It is illegal to harbor an escaped convict. He still harbors deep feelings of resentment toward his former employer. I don't harbor any illusions about our chances for success. She studies the genetic material harbored in a cell's nucleus. Some of these animals may harbor disease that could affect humans. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The storms passed quickly, and blue skies appeared, but strong winds thwarted my plans to paddleboard in the harbor and visit nearby Portsmouth Island. Washington Post, 6 May 2022 The luxury superyacht Amadea sits moored in the harbor at night ahead of the Monaco Yacht Show in Port Hercules, Monaco, in September 2019. Artem Grudinin, NBC News, 5 May 2022 On April 16, 1947 a French ship carrying ammonium nitrate fertilizer blew up in the harbor, sparking a chain of explosions and fires. San Diego Union-Tribune, 19 Apr. 2022 Loose circles of ice floated in harbor, and the hull broke through a skim of shore ice as the crew tied the boat to the Trident Seafoods dock. Anchorage Daily News, 4 Apr. 2022 The Red Hook sunsets remain the most spectacular in the city, and the Statue of Liberty stands steadfast and visible in the harbor. New York Times, 3 Mar. 2022 But when the French navy arrived to assist the Americans, the British scuttled Rose in the harbor in order to block the channel and prevent the French ships from entering and retaking the city. David Kindy, Smithsonian Magazine, 11 Feb. 2022 In 2011, after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, a series of surges cost $20 million of damage in the harbor. Nick Perry, The Christian Science Monitor, 15 Jan. 2022 In 2011, after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, a series of surges cost $20 million of damage in the harbor. Wire Reports, oregonlive, 15 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Voters still harbor concerns about Trump-style politics. The Salt Lake Tribune, 29 Apr. 2022 On average, smartphones harbor ten times the amount of bacteria found on the average toilet seat. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, 25 Apr. 2022 Compared with the West, fewer people harbor any illusions of individual rights trumping raw power. New York Times, 17 Apr. 2022 These scents all harbor metallic notes, and fall nicely in line with the crisp modernity the clothes express. Adam Hurly, Robb Report, 8 Dec. 2021 But the filmmakers also harbor a certain skepticism about words, with their capacity for imprecision, evasion and outright fabrication. Los Angeles Times, 29 Nov. 2021 The researchers say that the microfossils could harbor signs of ancient life. Joshua Hawkins, BGR, 21 Apr. 2022 The Titan mission would investigate if the moon could harbor life. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 19 Apr. 2022 Those who knew Brophy wondered how anyone could harbor animosity against him. Christine Pelisek, PEOPLE.com, 8 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'harbor.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of harbor


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for harbor


Middle English herberwe, herberowe, herbour, harborow "quarters, lodgings, field camp of an army, shelter for a traveler," going back to Old English herebeorg "shelter, lodgings," going back to Germanic *haribergō- (whence also Old Frisian herberge "lodging, inn," Old Saxon heriberga "army camp," Old High German heriberga, herberga "army camp, lodging for a traveler, accommodations," Old Norse herbergi "inn, room"), from *harja- "body of armed men" + *-bergō- "shelter, protection," noun derivative from the base of *bergan- "to keep safe" (whence Old English beorgan [strong verb class III] "to protect, defend, preserve," Old Saxon gibergan "to protect," Old High German bergan "to save, preserve, conceal," Old Norse bjarga "to save," Gothic bairgan "to keep, preserve"), going back to dialectal Indo-European *bhergh-, whence also Old Church Slavic nebrěgǫ, nebrěšti "to disregard, neglect," Czech brh "hayrick, cave, hut" (from *bĭrgŭ), Czech brah "hayrick," Polish bróg "hayrick, barn for hay" (from *borgŭ), Lithuanian bìrginti "to be sparing, not spend much," Old Irish commairce "protection, refuge" (from *ḱom-bhorgh-i̯e-) — more at harry

Note: Middle English forms such as herboru and harborow appear to show assimilation of the second element of the compound to variants of burgh "town, fortified dwelling" (see borough). — Germanic *bergan- has been associated with *berga- "hill, mountain" (see barrow entry 1), on the assumption that a high place would be a place of refuge, though the Indo-European base underlying *berga- is *bherǵh-, not *bhergh-. An etymon bherǵh-, however, would rule out the clearly related Balto-Slavic forms, which do not have a palatovelar stop. The link could only be maintained if the Balto-Slavic base was borrowed from Germanic, but the full display of ablaut and diversification of meaning in Slavic make borrowing unlikely.


Middle English herberwen, herborewen "to lodge, give shelter to," going back to Old English herebeorgian, going back to Germanic *haribergōjan- (whence also Middle Dutch herbergen "to provide shelter for," Old High German heribergōn "to set up quarters for an army, stay as a guest," Old Norse herbergja "to shelter [a person], lodge"), derivative of *haribergō- "shelter for an armed force" — more at harbor entry 1

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Time Traveler for harbor

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The first known use of harbor was in the 12th century

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Last Updated

14 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Harbor.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harbor. Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for harbor


har·​bor | \ ˈhär-bər How to pronounce harbor (audio) \

Kids Definition of harbor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a part of a body of water (as a sea or lake) so protected as to be a place of safety for ships : port
2 : a place of safety and comfort : refuge


harbored; harboring

Kids Definition of harbor (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to give shelter to They harbored the escaped prisoner.
2 : to have or hold in the mind For years she harbored the desire to travel.


transitive verb
har·​bor | \ ˈhär-bər How to pronounce harbor (audio) \

Medical Definition of harbor

: 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



Legal Definition of harbor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a place of security and comfort — see also safe harbor


transitive verb

Legal Definition of harbor (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to receive secretly and conceal (a fugitive from justice)
2 : to have (an animal) in one's keeping may not harbor a dog without a permit

Other Words from harbor

harborer noun

More from Merriam-Webster on harbor

Nglish: Translation of harbor for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of harbor for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about harbor


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