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verb (used with object)
  1. to strip of harness; detach the harness from (a horse, mule, etc.).
  2. to divest of armor, as a knight or warhorse.

Origin of unharness

First recorded in 1400–50, unharness is from the Middle English word onharnesen. See un-2, harness
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for unharness

Historical Examples

  • He began to unharness before the first sentence was finished.

    The Forbidden Trail

    Honor Willsie

  • He hoped that his father would not come and help him unharness the horses.

  • Afraid,” growled the fellow, proceeding to unharness his horse; “that was the word, I think.


    George Borrow

  • He said he put the package on the wagon-seat, and got out to unharness the horse.

  • Unharness the Sawhorse, somebody; my fingers are too clumsy.

British Dictionary definitions for unharness


verb (tr)
  1. to remove the harness from (a horse, etc)
  2. archaic to remove the armour from
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

Word Origin and History for unharness


mid-15c., "divest of armor," from un- (2) + harness (v.). Cf. Dutch ontharnassen "to disarm." Meaning "to free (a horse) from harness" is recorded from 1610s. Related: Unharnessed; unharnessing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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