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

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 harboring (audio) \

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

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Other Words from harbor


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


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

Synonyms for harbor

Synonyms: Noun

anchorage, harborage, haven, port

Synonyms: Verb

bear, cherish, entertain, have, hold, nurse

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Examples of harbor in a Sentence


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


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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

All fishing boats were ordered to return to harbor by Tuesday at noon, and all personnel at offshore fish farms were told to retreat to land by 6 p.m. Tuesday (local time). Greg Porter, Washington Post, "Typhoon Maria, lashing Taiwan with strong winds and heavy rain, is headed for China’s east coast," 10 July 2018 Word of the catch traveled quickly, and soon thousands of people flocked to the Canton harbor to catch sight of the hulking carcass floating in the waters. Christina Tkacik, baltimoresun.com, "That time a whale showed up in Baltimore's harbor," 29 May 2018 The space tug would do most of heavy lifting, pushing the lander away from its Gateway harbor toward the lowest possible lunar orbit, where the descent stage would then take over braking maneuvers. Anatoly Zak, Popular Mechanics, "NASA’s Return to the Moon Could Include a Reusable Lunar Lander," 23 Oct. 2018 With its deep harbor and strategic location, Havana soon became the staging post for brutal missions of discovery. Néstor Martí, Smithsonian, "The Man Who Saved Havana," 18 Apr. 2018 Walk Dalt Vila Dalt Vila, Ibiza’s fortified old town, rests on a promontory overlooking the city’s harbor and the glistening sea. Elizabeth Wellington, Vogue, "For Authentic Ibiza, Visit in the Winter," 15 Feb. 2019 The Rooftop Bar at the Tremont House, A Wyndham Grand Hotel Tremont House, Galveston's only open-air rooftop bar, offers friendly service and views of both the harbor and downtown. Condé Nast Traveler, "3 Best Day Trips from Houston," 12 Oct. 2018 Sailors used them to navigate into the harbor by aligning with the white light of the Upper Range, 39 feet above the water, and the red light of the Lower Range, 22 feet above the water. Chelsey Lewis, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "8 spectacular Lake Michigan lighthouses to visit in Wisconsin," 12 July 2018 Bye-bye Tiger Tiger Woods missed the cut at the U.S. Open, and Saturday afternoon USA TODAY Sports reporter Josh Peter saw his massive yacht named Privacy leave the harbor. Adam Woodard, USA TODAY, "U.S. Open live: Latest news from Shinnecock Hills as Dustin Johnson holds lead," 16 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The influx of people has attracted new kinds of businesses to a Main Street that still harbors mainstays like a hardware store and a vacuum repair shop. Jason Laughlin, Philly.com, "Lansdale exists because of the railroad. Now those tracks may be key to its future," 19 June 2018 But treating communities widely for river blindness is a risky proposition: The treatment can cause coma or death in a small segment of the population that harbors a different parasite -- another worm known as Loa loa. Brian Rinker, CNN, "New tech revolutionizes fight against ancient diseases in Africa, Asia," 17 Apr. 2018 Plus, loofahs and the like tend to harbor bacteria. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "How Often Should You Really Shower?," 10 Jan. 2019 An offense that dropped from 9.8 goals per game in 2017 to 8.1 in 2018 must rediscover its rhythm if the team wants to harbor hopes of clinching a berth in the Centennial Conference tournament. Edward Lee, baltimoresun.com, "Review & preview: McDaniel men’s lacrosse," 14 June 2018 For 65 years, North Koreans have been fed a narrative pushed by their government that Washington, not Pyongyang, started the Korean War, and continues to harbor a desire to conquer the country. James Griffiths, CNN, "How the Trump-Kim summit is playing in North Korea," 11 June 2018 But until Murray makes his intentions known, the Sooners have to harbor some real concern that their quarterback of the future might suddenly see baseball as his immediate future, instead. George Schroeder, USA TODAY, "Kyler Murray's selection in MLB draft throws big wrench in Oklahoma's football plans," 4 June 2018 Big lakes or reservoirs with plenty of deep water are much more likely to harbor big, old walleyes. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Smith: The Wisconsin walleye record has stood since 1933. These five waters have the best potential to top it.," 25 May 2018 Europa, a moon of Jupiter thought to harbor a warm, saltwater ocean sloshing beneath a thick, icy crust, has long been considered one of the best spots in the solar system to look for alien beings. Sarah Kaplan, courant.com, "Scientists discover new evidence for plumes on Europa, a target in the search for life," 14 May 2018

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.

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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

Noun and Verb

Middle English herberge, herberwe, from Old English herebeorg military quarters, from here army (akin to Old High German heri) + beorg refuge; akin to Old English burg fortified town — more at harry, borough

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Statistics for harbor

Last Updated

12 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for harbor

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

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More Definitions for harbor



English Language Learners Definition of harbor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a part of the ocean, a lake, etc., that is next to land and that is protected and deep enough to provide safety for ships
: a place of safety and comfort



English Language Learners Definition of harbor (Entry 2 of 2)

: to give shelter to (someone) : to hide and protect (someone)
: to have (something, such as a thought or feeling) in your mind for a long time
: to hold or contain (something)


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.
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

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Legal Definition of harbor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on harbor

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with harbor

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for harbor

Spanish Central: Translation of harbor

Nglish: Translation of harbor for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of harbor for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about harbor

Comments on harbor

What made you want to look up harbor? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


an act or instance of returning to life

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