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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 Its capital, Port-au-Prince, was overrun by trash and human waste that washed into the harbor. New York Times, 20 May 2022 Competitors will once again plunge almost 90 feet into the harbor from a diving platform atop the ICA’s cantilevered eight-story building. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 16 May 2022 Instead of compliance, the ship moved into the harbor. David Reamer, Anchorage Daily News, 15 May 2022 Use Next and Previous buttons to navigate An 83-year-old sailor became the oldest person to cross the Pacific Ocean solo, arriving in Japan 69 days after leaving a San Francisco yacht harbor. Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, 4 June 2022 When completed, the mammoth installation will transform the quaint fishing harbor and resort town, with its key resting spot for migrating bird species, into a bustling beachhead. Howard Lafranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, 3 June 2022 Paddle around the harbor in search of pirate’s treasure, see a stand-up comedy routine, listen to musical tribute, walk among dinosaurs and watch an 1980s TV show return. John Coffren, Baltimore Sun, 2 June 2022 It’s the ideal spot for a drink before or after going on a whale watch or a harbor cruise. Rob Duca, BostonGlobe.com, 2 June 2022 McOsker is running to succeed Councilman Joe Buscaino, who is stepping down after two terms in the city’s harbor district. David Zahniserstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 1 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Phillips and Pereria were conducting research for a book in an area of the Amazon that experts believe can be dangerous and known to harbor criminals and international drug dealers, per CNN. Olivia Jakiel, PEOPLE.com, 17 June 2022 However, the addition of a third wild card team in each league to the postseason this season at least gives the Diamondbacks a reason to harbor thoughts of participating in the playoffs for the first time since 2017, Lovullo’s first year on the job. John Perrotto, Forbes, 6 June 2022 Then there’s Nicola, a beautiful young mother who seems too snooty to socialize with the neighbors — and who turns out to harbor unsettling secrets. Sarah Lyall, New York Times, 27 May 2022 But in the past, her attitude towards her victims has bordered on contempt, and her most ardent stans do not seem to harbor much sympathy for Delvey’s victims, either. Ej Dickson, Rolling Stone, 20 May 2022 While al-Shabab mostly fights inside Somalia and only occasionally attacks neighboring countries, some members are said to harbor ambitions to strike the United States. Charlie Savage And Eric Schmitt, BostonGlobe.com, 16 May 2022 But perhaps the drug could help another group of long-haulers, who are thought to harbor hard-to-reach reservoirs of virus that regularly rile the body up. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 10 May 2022 With the den’s honey reserves and surrounding hives running out, Teddy convinces papa bear sets off to find the Golden Land which is believed to harbor an endless source of honey. Elsa Keslassy, Variety, 4 May 2022 The announcement followed news earlier this month that a city developer has reached a deal to acquire and reimagine the long-struggling Harborplace pavilions, once a centerpiece to harbor redevelopment in the early 1980s. Lorraine Mirabella, Baltimore Sun, 28 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

Learn More About harbor

Time Traveler for harbor

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near harbor




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for harbor

Last Updated

19 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Harbor.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harbor. Accessed 27 Jun. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!