Try Our Apps


90s Slang You Should Know


[hahr-bin-jer] /ˈhɑr bɪn dʒər/
a person who goes ahead and makes known the approach of another; herald.
anything that foreshadows a future event; omen; sign:
Frost is a harbinger of winter.
a person sent in advance of troops, a royal train, etc., to provide or secure lodgings and other accommodations.
verb (used with object)
to act as harbinger to; herald the coming of.
Origin of harbinger
late Middle English
1125-75; late Middle English herbenger, nasalized variant of Middle English herbegere, dissimilated variant of Old French herberg(i)ere host, equivalent to herberg(ier) to shelter (< Germanic; see harbor) + -iere -er2
2. herald, forerunner, precursor, portent, indication. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for harbinger
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It is the beginning of desires, the beginning of life, the dawn of a beautiful summer day, harbinger of the sunrise.

    Urania Camille Flammarion
  • Thus, therefore, did this harbinger of evil news resume the situation.

    "Unto Caesar" Baroness Emmuska Orczy
  • The returning sun of spring was but the harbinger of new woes for war-stricken Europe.

  • harbinger expressed the opinion that the editor ought to be kicked.

    The Patrician John Galsworthy
  • The arrival of a letter was, therefore, looked upon as the harbinger of some calamity or as conveying news of great importance.

    Romances of Old Japan Yei Theodora Ozaki
British Dictionary definitions for harbinger


a person or thing that announces or indicates the approach of something; forerunner
(obsolete) a person sent in advance of a royal party or army to obtain lodgings for them
(transitive) to announce the approach or arrival of
Word Origin
C12: from Old French herbergere, from herberge lodging, from Old Saxon heriberga; compare Old High German heriberga army shelter; see harry, borough
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for harbinger

late 15c., herbengar "one sent ahead to arrange lodgings" (for a monarch, an army, etc.), alteration of Middle English herberger "provider of shelter, innkeeper" (late 12c.), from Old French herbergeor, from herbergier "provide lodging," from herber "lodging, shelter," from Frankish *heriberga "lodging, inn" (cf. Old Saxon, Old High German heriberga "army shelter," from heri "army" + berga "shelter"); see harbor. Sense of "forerunner" is mid-16c. Intrusive -n- is 15c. (see messenger). As a verb, from 1640s (harbinge "to lodge" is late 15c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for harbinger

Many English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for harbinger

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for harbinger