har·​bor | \ ˈhär-bər \

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 \

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 \ noun
harborless \ ˈhär-​bər-​ləs \ adjective


harborer \ ˈhär-​bər-​ər \ 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

In her terrific book, All the Single Ladies, Rebecca Traister talks about how cities have long been a safe harbor for single women. Chloe Schama, Vogue, "Glynnis MacNicol's No One Tells You This Puts a Happy Single Woman at the Center," 16 July 2018 Malta last week gave the ship safe harbor, but only after Italy and seven other nations, in addition to Malta, pledged to each take some of the migrants. Stephen Calleja, BostonGlobe.com, "Malta charges German captain of rescue boat," 2 July 2018 Malta then angrily rebuffed Salvini's claim that the tiny Mediterranean nation was closest to the rescue ship and should give it safe harbor. Renata Brito And Frances D'emilio, chicagotribune.com, "Fear turns to joy as rescue boat saves 60 in Mediterranean Sea," 30 June 2018 From a policy standpoint, broad and unconditional safe harbors are advantageous for internet intermediaries. Tarleton Gillespie, WIRED, "How Social Networks Set the Limits of What We Can Say Online," 26 June 2018 Amid all this, Tumblr has been a safe harbor of delightful, weird, and deeply human stuff, presented using the radical system known as reverse chronological order. Casey Newton, The Verge, "How Kevin Hart tweeted himself out of a job hosting the Oscars," 8 Dec. 2018 As was one of the first soldiers to arrive, his job was to deploy concrete caissons that would form a temporary harbor to help soldiers rapidly load cargo onto the beach. Adam Beam, The Seattle Times, "100-year-old WWII veteran awarded French Legion of Honor," 19 Nov. 2018 Refurbished pieces of sails function as headboards and a harbor full of sailboats lies just beyond the pool. Danielle Fox, ELLE Decor, "At the Nhow Marseille Hotel in France, Italian Furniture and Local Grit Lead the Design," 22 Oct. 2018 With more than 120 unaccompanied minors and six pregnant women on board, the ship was then directed to travel north in search of a safe harbor by the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (IMRCC). Saskya Vandoorne, CNN, "Migrant ship Aquarius reveals a fractured Europe," 13 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Volk-Zimmerman, who works out of a Red Hook studio, has harbored a love of wooden furniture since childhood. Madeleine Luckel, Vogue, "16 of the Most Innovative Furniture Designers Who Manufacture in the U.S.," 4 July 2018 Almost everyone harbors biases that don’t reach the light of deliberate thought. Steven P. Dinkin, sandiegouniontribune.com, "The single mom and the unconscious bias," 1 July 2018 According to the two-count indictment, from 2006 and 2014, Nhekairo harbored the immigrant, who officials said is a national of Zimbabwe. Luke Broadwater, baltimoresun.com, "Federal prosecutors charge Anne Arundel County woman with harboring undocumented immigrant," 29 June 2018 By the fall of 2018, each man was harboring a secret. Phred Dvorak, WSJ, "At Troubled Nissan, CEO Described as a ‘Space Alien’ Takes the Wheel," 30 Dec. 2018 Clearly the woman harbors dreams of living on cheese and wine in France one day. Susanna Fogel, Glamour, "This Is What You’ve Got Mail Would Look Like 20 Years Later," 20 Dec. 2018 For example, the moon's crust may harbor plates of ice, some of which dive beneath others in alien tectonic activity. Mike Wall, Space.com, "Jupiter Moon Europa's Jagged Ice Towers Could Imperil Robot Landers," 8 Oct. 2018 Many South Koreans still harbor deep anger over the North's 1950 sneak attack that started a war that killed and injured millions. Kim Tong-hyung, Fox News, "A Kim Jong Un visit to Seoul? It would be surreal challenge," 20 Sep. 2018 New research suggests that perhaps at one point in its history, the moon may have harbored microorganisms similar to those on Earth. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Life May Have Once Existed on the Moon," 24 July 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

18 Jan 2019

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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 \

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 \

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).


a complex dispute or argument

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