verb (used with object)
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Origin of harbinger
Words nearby harbinger
What does harbinger mean?
Harbinger most commonly means an omen or a sign of something to come.
Harbinger can also mean a person sent ahead to make people aware that someone else is coming (such as a king) or to make preparations (such as for an army), but these meanings are much less common. Harbinger can also be used as a verb meaning to act as a sign or omen.
Example: These flowers are always the first to bloom, so people consider them harbingers of spring.
Where does harbinger come from?
Harbinger has been used in English since at least the 1100s. It comes from Middle English, from a variant of the Old French herberg(i)ere, which meant “host” and was equivalent to the verb herberg(ier), “to shelter.”
Harbinger was originally used in English to refer to a host or someone who provides lodgings. It came to be used to refer to the person who went in advance of an army to secure lodgings for the soldiers. Eventually, it became synonymous with herald—someone who goes ahead to announce that someone important is coming, like a king or queen. Another word for such a person is forerunner, which can now also be used to mean “omen” or “sign of something to come.” This is the most common meaning of harbinger. A harbinger can be a sign of something positive, as in Robins are a harbinger of springtime, or negative, as in These reports are a harbinger of doom. When applied to a person, harbinger often refers to someone who’s announcing something, especially something that has yet to happen. More rarely, it can be used as a verb, as in His text harbingered their arrival.
It can be tempting to misspell harbinger as harbringer, since a harbinger usually brings something, such as a warning, but you can remember the correct spelling by keeping the pronunciation in mind: it’s HAR-bin-jer, with the G making a J sound.
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How is harbinger used in real life?
Harbinger can be used in many different contexts, but it typically refers to a sign that something is going to happen in the future.
I don’t like sounding like the Harbinger of Doom, but I see it as inevitable that @WonderCon is either postponed or cancelled. I’m seeing way too many events taking this action, and the news I received while at my local VA clinic yesterday wasn’t encouraging.
— Ken Penders (@KenPenders) March 11, 2020
Who’s ready for spring? Many robins remain in northern Illinois year-round, but they are still a harbinger of the most anticipated season of the year. (Photo courtesy of Matt Zuro) pic.twitter.com/OqRBHH6YaW
— WillCoForestPreserve (@WillCoForests) March 4, 2020
Hellebore from the garden…always see it as spring harbinger. Did some research & turns out it has strong links to witchcraft: “used in magic for healing of mental/emotional afflictions; banishing; exorcisms; increasing intelligence; protection & invisibility spells.” #IWD2020 pic.twitter.com/WWXscuPQdi
— Louise Macdonald (@Louisemac) March 8, 2020
Try using harbinger!
Is harbinger used correctly in the following sentence?
In retrospect, the cancellation of our first contract was a harbinger of failure.
Example sentences from the Web for harbinger
In fact the vanishing sea is a warning: a harbinger of the long feared war over water in Central Asia.
Whether this three-day system is a harbinger of seasonal weather changes is uncertain.
And as such, it bears closer inspection, if only because it may be a harbinger of conservative attacks to come.Southern Baptist Convention: Trans People Don’t Exist|Jay Michaelson|June 12, 2014|DAILY BEAST
May have been a harbinger of November contests… in pointlessness and cost.PJ’s Political Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatheads|P. J. O’Rourke|March 14, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Could it be a harbinger of what el-Sisi hopes to accomplish in Egypt?
Orpheus calls her the harbinger of Titan, for she is the personification of that light which precedes the appearance of the sun.Roman Antiquities, and Ancient Mythology|Charles K. Dillaway
The returning sun of spring was but the harbinger of new woes for war-stricken Europe.The Empire of Austria; Its Rise and Present Power|John S. C. Abbott
The Harbinger is very reticent in relation to the details of the dissolution.History of American Socialisms|John Humphrey Noyes
The decease of the "Harbinger" was the end of that phase of Transcendentalism.Transcendentalism in New England|Octavius Brooks Frothingham
Whether therefore it is the herald of one now present or the harbinger of one who shall come immediately, the want is evident.