View synonyms for harbinger


[ hahr-bin-jer ]


  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.

    Synonyms: indication, portent, precursor, forerunner, herald

  3. a person sent in advance of troops, a royal train, etc., to provide or secure lodgings and other accommodations.

verb (used with object)

  1. to act as harbinger to; herald the coming of.


/ ˈhɑːbɪndʒə /


  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


  1. tr to announce the approach or arrival of
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Word History and Origins

Origin of harbinger1

First recorded in 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” (from Germanic; harbor ) + -iere -er 2
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Word History and Origins

Origin of harbinger1

C12: from Old French herbergere, from herberge lodging, from Old Saxon heriberga; compare Old High German heriberga army shelter; see harry , borough
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Example Sentences

The moon is known as the “snow moon,” but won’t be a harbinger of too many flakes.

Wardle, of First Draft, said Facebook’s new willingness to be aggressive on several fronts would be the harbinger for similar confrontations all over the world.

The power failures that have hobbled Texas have prompted warnings that they are a harbinger of national disasters to come and dramatically illustrate the need to upgrade all of America’s electrical systems.

The current predicament with Wall is a harbinger of this trouble.

The question surrounding its debut was what sort of price it could secure given its rising losses and operating cash burn, and whether it would prove attractive enough to serve as a positive harbinger for yet-private SaaS startups.

One generation and then another grew up with Chubby as the happy harbinger of summer.

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.

May have been a harbinger of November contests… in pointlessness and cost.

For months the public organs, issued in Spanish and dialect, persistently denounced it as a harbinger of ruin to the Colony.

It is the beginning of desires, the beginning of life, the dawn of a beautiful summer day, harbinger of the sunrise.

In general, the atmosphere is tranquil, but occasionally a stormy agitation is the harbinger of a change.

Harbinger leaned forward to the grate, and began to pound the coal with the poker in a way that bespoke embarrassment.

Within the following year Mr. Campbell died, and the always welcome Millennial Harbinger ceased its monthly visits.


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More About 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.



Try using harbinger!

Is harbinger used correctly in the following sentence?

In retrospect, the cancellation of our first contract was a harbinger of failure.