the combination of straps, bands, and other parts forming the working gear of a draft animal. Compare yoke1 ( def 1 ).
(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.
the equipment, as straps, bolts, or gears, by which a large bell is mounted and rung.
Electricity, wiring harness.
armor for persons or horses.
verb (used with object)
to put a harness on (a horse, donkey, dog, etc.); attach by a harness, as to a vehicle.
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.
Archaic. to array in armor or equipments of war.
in double harness. double harness ( def 2 ).
in harness,
engaged in one's usual routine of work: After his illness he longed to get back in harness.
together as cooperating partners or equals: Joe and I worked in harness on our last job.

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

harnesser, noun
harnessless, adjective
harnesslike, adjective
reharness, verb (used with object)
well-harnessed, adjective

7. control, manage, utilize, exploit.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
harness (ˈhɑːnɪs)
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 body: a 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
8.  to put harness on (a horse)
9.  (usually foll by to) to attach (a draught animal) by means of harness to (a cart, etc)
10.  to control so as to employ the energy or potential power of: to harness the atom
11.  to equip or clothe with armour
[C13: from Old French harneis baggage, probably from Old Norse hernest (unattested) provisions, from herr army + nest provisions]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

c.1300, from O.Fr. harneis, perhaps from O.N. *hernest "provisions for an army," from herr "army" + nest "provisions." Ger. Harnisch "harness, armor" is the O.Fr. word, borrowed into M.H.G. The verb meaning "to put a harness on a draught animal" is from c.1300; figurative sense is from 1698.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Bible Dictionary

Harness definition

(1.) Heb. 'asar, "to bind;" hence the act of fastening animals to a cart (1 Sam. 6:7, 10; Jer. 46:4, etc.). (2.) An Old English word for "armour;" Heb. neshek (2 Chr. 9:24). (3.) Heb. shiryan, a coat of mail (1 Kings 22:34; 2 Chr. 18:33; rendered "breastplate" in Isa. 59:17). (4.) The children of Israel passed out of Egypt "harnessed" (Ex. 13:18), i.e., in an orderly manner, and as if to meet a foe. The word so rendered is probably a derivative from Hebrew _hamesh_ (i.e., "five"), and may denote that they went up in five divisions, viz., the van, centre, two wings, and rear-guard.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


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

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


the gear or tackle other than a yoke of a draft animal (as a horse, dog, or goat). The modern harness appears to have been developed in China some time before AD 500 and to have been in use in Europe by 800

Learn more about harness with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
He has earned more money in harness racing purses than any other driver and he
  is a premier figure in the sport.
Suddenly everyone wants to harness the power of consumers.
Small photovoltaic panels harness the sun's power for individual tasks on a
  global scale.
Such computers would harness the physical properties of quantum bits, or
  qubits, to expand the reach of computation.
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