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  1. the combination of straps, bands, and other parts forming the working gear of a draft animal.Compare yoke1(def 1).
  2. (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.
  3. the equipment, as straps, bolts, or gears, by which a large bell is mounted and rung.
  4. Electricity. wiring harness.
  5. armor for persons or horses.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to put a harness on (a horse, donkey, dog, etc.); attach by a harness, as to a vehicle.
  2. 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.
  3. Archaic. to array in armor or equipments of war.
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  1. in double harness. double harness(def 2).
  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.
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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 formshar·ness·er, nounhar·ness·less, adjectivehar·ness·like, adjectivere·har·ness, verb (used with object)well-har·nessed, adjective

Synonyms for harness

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

Related Words for harnessing

utilize, tame, exploit, curb, tackle, mobilize, fetter, secure, accouter, strap, apply, rig, check, muzzle, hold, fit, leash, tie, channel, equip

Examples from the Web for harnessing

Contemporary Examples of harnessing

Historical Examples of harnessing

  • He chuckled all through the harnessing of Daniel, the venerable white horse.

    Cap'n Eri

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

  • But I was not aware that you had engaged in roping or harnessing the animal.

    Glyn Severn's Schooldays

    George Manville Fenn

  • The harnessing of an Italian diligence is a mystery to all but an Italian postilion.

  • Beechnut did not answer to this proposal, but went on harnessing the horse.


    Jacob Abbott

  • Carriers' men were harnessing the freshly groomed bays to the pole.

British Dictionary definitions for harnessing


  1. 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
  2. something resembling this, esp for attaching something to the bodya parachute harness
  3. 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
  4. the total system of electrical leads for a vehicle or aircraft
  5. weaving the part of a loom that raises and lowers the warp threads, creating the shed
  6. archaic armour collectively
  7. in harness at one's routine work
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verb (tr)
  1. to put harness on (a horse)
  2. (usually foll by to) to attach (a draught animal) by means of harness to (a cart, etc)
  3. to control so as to employ the energy or potential power ofto harness the atom
  4. to equip or clothe with armour
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Derived Formsharnesser, nounharnessless, adjectiveharness-like, adjective

Word Origin for harness

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

Word Origin and History for harnessing



"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.

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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."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with harnessing


see die with one's boots on (in harness) in harness.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.