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[hahr-bin-jer] /ˈhɑr bɪn dʒər/
a person who goes ahead and makes known the approach of another; herald.
anything that foreshadows a future event; omen; sign:
Frost is a harbinger of winter.
a person sent in advance of troops, a royal train, etc., to provide or secure lodgings and other accommodations.
verb (used with object)
to act as harbinger to; herald the coming of.
Origin of harbinger
late Middle English
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
2. herald, forerunner, precursor, portent, indication. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for harbinger
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It is the beginning of desires, the beginning of life, the dawn of a beautiful summer day, harbinger of the sunrise.

    Urania Camille Flammarion
  • I once beheld it as the harbinger of happiness, as the temple of integrity and innocence.

    Imogen William Godwin
  • The returning sun of spring was but the harbinger of new woes for war-stricken Europe.

  • John was the harbinger not alone of the kingdom but of the King; and to him the King in person came.

    Jesus the Christ James Edward Talmage
  • The arrival of a letter was, therefore, looked upon as the harbinger of some calamity or as conveying news of great importance.

    Romances of Old Japan Yei Theodora Ozaki
British Dictionary definitions for harbinger


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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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