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  1. a person who goes ahead and makes known the approach of another; herald.
  2. anything that foreshadows a future event; omen; sign: Frost is a harbinger of winter.
  3. a person sent in advance of troops, a royal train, etc., to provide or secure lodgings and other accommodations.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to act as harbinger to; herald the coming of.
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Origin of harbinger

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

Synonyms for harbinger

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for harbinger

precursor, omen, portent, signal, augury, sign, herald, forerunner, messenger, foretoken

Examples from the Web for harbinger

Contemporary Examples of harbinger

Historical Examples of harbinger

British Dictionary definitions for harbinger


  1. a person or thing that announces or indicates the approach of something; forerunner
  2. obsolete a person sent in advance of a royal party or army to obtain lodgings for them
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  1. (tr) to announce the approach or arrival of
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Word Origin for harbinger

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

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.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper