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."
"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.
Working; actively employed rather than resting, retired, on holiday, etc: He didn't know how to relax after all those years in harness (1875+)
The dress and equipment of special categories of persons, such as telephone line repairers, police officers, train conductors, motorcyclists, etc: Wise detectives, who dread going back into ''harness'' or uniform (1841+)
(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.