Harbor | Definition of Harbor by Merriam-Webster


har·​bor | \ ˈhär-bər How to pronounce harbor (audio) \

Definition of harbor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a place of security and comfort : refuge the … Loyalists found harbor in the same areas— W. G. Hardy
2 : a part of a body of water protected and deep enough to furnish anchorage a yacht harbor especially : one with port facilities


harbored; harboring\ ˈhär-​b(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce harboring (audio) \

Definition of harbor (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to give shelter or refuge to harboring a fugitive
b : to be the home or habitat of The ledges still harbor rattlesnakes. broadly : contain sense 2 a town that harbors several textile factories
2 : to hold especially persistently in the mind : cherish harbored a grudge

intransitive verb

1 : to take shelter in or as if in a harbor ships harboring in the bay
2 : live parasites that harbor in the blood

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Other Words from harbor


harborful \ ˈhär-​bər-​ˌfu̇l How to pronounce harborful (audio) \ noun
harborless \ ˈhär-​bər-​ləs How to pronounce harborless (audio) \ adjective


harborer \ ˈhär-​bər-​ər How to pronounce harborer (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for harbor

Synonyms: Noun

anchorage, harborage, haven, port

Synonyms: Verb

bear, cherish, entertain, have, hold, nurse

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Examples of harbor in a Sentence


the tanker stayed in Boston harbor three days to undergo repairs seeking a harbor from the drenching rain, we unfortunately chose a bank where a robbery was taking place


It is illegal to harbor an escaped convict. He still harbors deep feelings of resentment toward his former employer. I don't harbor any illusions about our chances for success. She studies the genetic material harbored in a cell's nucleus. Some of these animals may harbor disease that could affect humans.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Ice Cream Store overlooking the outer harbor offers peppermint stick ice cream all summer long. James R. Carroll, USA TODAY, "Cape Ann, Massachusetts: A charming alternative to Cape Cod with sandy beaches and fried clams," 3 June 2019 Ventura dropped about 35 feet into the ocean and clung to a pylon for a time, but let go just as a harbor police boat was drawing near. Alex Riggins, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Body found near Oceanside Pier where Escondido man fell last month," 3 June 2019 The Mariner is a harbor tug, which will operate around Seattle, handing off barges to larger ocean tugs, that will make the trip to Alaska. David Gutman, The Seattle Times, "How do you launch a 330-ton tugboat? Very carefully.," 29 May 2019 Pro tip: The view of the sun rising over the harbor from The White Elephant’s lawn is breathtaking and fully worth setting a 5:15 a.m. alarm. Jaimie Potters, Marie Claire, "Where to Stay, Eat, and Explore in Nantucket, Massachusetts," 10 May 2019 The home’s interiors do justice to the frothy harbor views beyond, without a whiff of the beachy camp to which so many other vacation houses fall victim. Kathryn O'shea Evans, House Beautiful, "This Stunning Massachusetts Home is a Haven in the Trees," 3 May 2019 During the Cold War, both the U.S. and Russia trained dolphins to hunt for underwater mines and defend harbors. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "The Russian Navy Might Be Recruiting Whales as Spies," 29 Apr. 2019 The ship docked in Catania's harbor earlier in the week. Fox News, "The Latest: Health experts inspect docked ship with migrants," 25 Aug. 2018 Malta and Italy had denied safe harbor to the Lifeline, which had carried out rescues in the Mediterranean off Libya, where migrant-smugglers are based. Fox News, "The Latest: Norway reports more Turkish asylum-seekers," 5 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But not that long ago, 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez harbored a lot milder if not radically different views. Lukas Mikelionis, Fox News, "Socialist candidate Ocasio-Cortez once saw herself as Smithian capitalist, viewed feminism as 'relic'," 3 Aug. 2018 Remove the label because paper can harbor dangerous bacteria. Diane Mason, Cincinnati.com, "Flood waters may contaminate foods," 20 Feb. 2018 Sydney teases that Caitlin's mom, the Senator who's running for president and harboring a secret her daughter has been hiding for her, will be coming to town. Gabe Bergado, Teen Vogue, ""The Perfectionists" Star Sydney Park on "Screaming" Over That Text from "A" and Paying Homage to an Iconic "PLL" Moment," 24 Apr. 2019 Their promotional video reveals that a reusable straw that goes 24 hours without being cleaned can harbor as many germs as a public toilet seat—yikes. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "This Reusable Straw Has a Genius Cleaning Hack That’ll Blow Your Mind," 4 Apr. 2019 This is because your mattress and pillow can harbor allergens like dust mites, which are microscopic creatures that feed off of your dead skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. Korin Miller, SELF, "How Often to Buy a New Mattress and Pillow for the Best Sleep Possible," 28 Mar. 2019 Two 26-year-old superstars, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, both harboring visions of record-setting contracts that would forever change baseball’s financial landscape. Jared Diamond, WSJ, "Manny Machado, Padres Agree to 10-Year, $300 Million Deal," 19 Feb. 2019 Since 2013, the Texas congressman had pumped more than $1 billion into two daring missions to an icy moon that just might harbor life in its subsurface oceans. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "A congressman’s loss clouds the future of two demanding missions to Europa," 3 Dec. 2018 Curiosity landed on Mars on Aug. 12, 2012 with a mission to determine whether the Red Planet ever harbored life or had conditions suitable for life. NBC News, "NASA to reveal new findings from its Mars rover Curiosity," 6 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'harbor.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of harbor


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for harbor

Noun and Verb

Middle English herberge, herberwe, from Old English herebeorg military quarters, from here army (akin to Old High German heri) + beorg refuge; akin to Old English burg fortified town — more at harry, borough

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Statistics for harbor

Last Updated

7 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for harbor

The first known use of harbor was in the 12th century

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More Definitions for harbor



English Language Learners Definition of harbor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a part of the ocean, a lake, etc., that is next to land and that is protected and deep enough to provide safety for ships
: a place of safety and comfort



English Language Learners Definition of harbor (Entry 2 of 2)

: to give shelter to (someone) : to hide and protect (someone)
: to have (something, such as a thought or feeling) in your mind for a long time
: to hold or contain (something)


har·​bor | \ ˈhär-bər How to pronounce harbor (audio) \

Kids Definition of harbor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a part of a body of water (as a sea or lake) so protected as to be a place of safety for ships : port
2 : a place of safety and comfort : refuge


harbored; harboring

Kids Definition of harbor (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to give shelter to They harbored the escaped prisoner.
2 : to have or hold in the mind For years she harbored the desire to travel.
har·​bor | \ ˈhär-bər How to pronounce harbor (audio) \

Medical Definition of harbor

: to contain or be the home, habitat, or host of those who harbor the gene for the illness— William Booth green monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops) may have harbored the ancestor of the AIDS virus— R. C. Gallo

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Legal Definition of harbor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a place of security and comfort — see also safe harbor

Legal Definition of harbor (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to receive secretly and conceal (a fugitive from justice)
2 : to have (an animal) in one's keeping may not harbor a dog without a permit

Other Words from harbor

harborer noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on harbor

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with harbor

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for harbor

Spanish Central: Translation of harbor

Nglish: Translation of harbor for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of harbor for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about harbor

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