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

Navigation into the harbor was difficult, however, and the community’s birdcage lighthouse was inefficient, leading to the grounding of many ships on rocky shoals at the mouth of the bay. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "To get to the 150-year-old Cana Island Lighthouse, you have to ride a wagon through Lake Michigan," 6 Sep. 2019 Just don’t fall into the harbor after drinking one of the many local beers on tap at this historic waterfront spot. Baltimore Sun Staff, baltimoresun.com, "Where to watch Ravens (or your favorite NFL team) play in Baltimore," 6 Sep. 2019 The base closed the harbor to civilian craft for about an hour on Aug. 29 while security boat crews trained by speeding around the docked USS New Orleans and simulated automatic gunfire with blank ammunition. Daniel Langhorne, Daily Pilot, "Navy awards $154 million construction contract to modernize Seal Beach base," 5 Sep. 2019 Crews began the search, which turned up an empty boat idling about a mile offshore from the harbor, the release says. Cory Shaffer, cleveland.com, "Coast Guard suspends search for Lake Erie boater missing near Cleveland," 2 Sep. 2019 The dance party went on for hours alongside a beach bonfire, and ended with a firework show over the harbor. Vogue, "The Dress Code Was “Beach Chic” For This Wedding in Harbour Island," 22 Aug. 2019 The fire became a sort of tourist attraction on the harbor. David Garrick, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Fishing boat blaze prompts new evaluation of firefighting on San Diego Bay," 22 Aug. 2019 This British-colonial era fort is built on a hill overlooking the harbor with a panoramic view of the Leeward side of the island. Anquanette Gaspard, Essence, "Get Lost: 72 Hours in St. Vincent," 29 July 2019 About 90 percent of urine is water, and this is treated and discharged into the harbor or reused as process water. Braden Phillips, Smithsonian, "Will Cities of the Future Have Floating Farms?," 13 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Bolton, by contrast, harbors a view that exalts the use of American military power, and favors a forceful response to traditional American adversaries such as Russia, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea. John Hudson, Washington Post, "Diverging worldviews long haunted Trump-Bolton relationship," 10 Sep. 2019 That precedent harbors some relevance as the Red Sox look for the next leader of their baseball operations department. BostonGlobe.com, "What now? Who are the likely candidates to head the Red Sox baseball operations department?," 10 Sep. 2019 Tropical forests harbor many species of plants and animals found nowhere else. Scott Denning, Scientific American, "Destructive Amazon Fires Do Not Threaten Earth’s Oxygen, Expert Says," 27 Aug. 2019 Tropical forests harbor many species of plants and animals found nowhere else. The Conversation, oregonlive.com, "Amazon fires are alarming -- but, no, they won’t deplete Earth’s oxygen: The Conversation," 26 Aug. 2019 Trump has long harbored a suspicion of anti-conservative bias by technology giants, and has mused about whether major Internet platforms should be broken apart. Josh Wingrove, Fortune, "Trump Says He’s Watching Google ‘Closely’ Ahead of Election," 6 Aug. 2019 Suddenly, government agents are after him, fellow mutants are harboring him, and a powerful but disembodied overlord that had been biding its time inside his head wants a real body (and world domination). Frederick Melo, Twin Cities, "Superheroes behaving badly: 12 crusading TV series target mature audiences," 4 Aug. 2019 Actea and one of its volcanic neighbors, named Climene, both harbor another fascinating feature: bubbles rising from their craters. National Geographic, "Six underwater volcanoes found hiding in plain sight," 2 Aug. 2019 And the new star system may harbor planets within the habitable zone, in which the temperature on a planet's surface is just right to support liquid water and potentially life. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Planet-hunting satellite TESS finds 'missing link' exoplanets," 29 July 2019

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

13 Sep 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).


miscellaneous remnants or debris

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