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[hahr-nis] /ˈhɑr nɪs/
the combination of straps, bands, and other parts forming the working gear of a draft animal.
Compare yoke1 (def 1).
(on a loom) the frame containing heddles through which the warp is drawn and which, in combination with another such frame or other frames, forms the shed and determines the woven pattern.
the equipment, as straps, bolts, or gears, by which a large bell is mounted and rung.
Electricity. wiring harness.
armor for persons or horses.
verb (used with object)
to put a harness on (a horse, donkey, dog, etc.); attach by a harness, as to a vehicle.
to bring under conditions for effective use; gain control over for a particular end:
to harness water power; to harness the energy of the sun.
Archaic. to array in armor or equipments of war.
in double harness. double harness (def 2).
in harness,
  1. engaged in one's usual routine of work:
    After his illness he longed to get back in harness.
  2. together as cooperating partners or equals:
    Joe and I worked in harness on our last job.
Origin of harness
1250-1300; Middle English harneis, herneis < Old French herneis baggage, equipment < Old Norse *hernest provisions for an armed force, equivalent to herr army (cf. harbor, herald) + nest provisions for a journey
Related forms
harnesser, noun
harnessless, adjective
harnesslike, adjective
reharness, verb (used with object)
well-harnessed, adjective
7. control, manage, utilize, exploit. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for harness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "My harness is yours by the law of arms," said the Spaniard, gloomily.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • When they arrived at the stable Mike headed straight for the harness room.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • Lucky the cayuse who happens to be the right size for his harness.

    A Woman Tenderfoot Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson
  • The bully is not always, or, in fact, often the leader in harness.

    The Long Labrador Trail Dillon Wallace
  • Put our dead and wounded in the carts, and we can harness two of these chargers to them.

    Micah Clarke Arthur Conan Doyle
British Dictionary definitions for harness


an arrangement of leather straps buckled or looped together, fitted to a draught animal in order that the animal can be attached to and pull a cart
something resembling this, esp for attaching something to the body: a parachute harness
(mountaineering) an arrangement of webbing straps that enables a climber to attach himself to the rope so that the impact of a fall is minimized
the total system of electrical leads for a vehicle or aircraft
(weaving) the part of a loom that raises and lowers the warp threads, creating the shed
(archaic) armour collectively
in harness, at one's routine work
verb (transitive)
to put harness on (a horse)
(usually foll by to) to attach (a draught animal) by means of harness to (a cart, etc)
to control so as to employ the energy or potential power of: to harness the atom
to equip or clothe with armour
Derived Forms
harnesser, noun
harnessless, adjective
harness-like, adjective
Word Origin
C13: from Old French harneis baggage, probably from Old Norse hernest (unattested) provisions, from herr army + nest provisions
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
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Word Origin and History for harness

c.1300, "personal fighting equipment, body armor," also "armor or trappings of a war-horse," from Old French harnois "arms, equipment; harness; male genitalia; tackle; household equipment," of uncertain origin, perhaps from Old Norse *hernest "provisions for an army," from herr "army" (see harry) + nest "provisions" (see nostalgia). Non-military sense of "fittings for a beast of burden" is from early 14c. German Harnisch "harness, armor" is the French word, borrowed into Middle High German. The Celtic words also are believed to be from French, as are Spanish arnes, Portuguese arnez, Italian arnese. Prive harness (late 14c.) was a Middle English term for "sex organs."


"to put a harness on a draught animal," c.1300, from Old French harneschier, from harnois (see harness (n.)); figurative sense is from 1690s. Related: Harnessed; harnessing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for harness



The dress and equipment of special categories of persons, such as telephone line repairers, police officers, train conductors, motorcyclists, etc: Wise detectives, who dread going back into ''harness'' or uniform (1841+)

Related Terms

in harness

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with harness
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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