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

Navigation into the harbor was difficult, however, and the community’s birdcage lighthouse was inefficient, leading to the grounding of many ships on rocky shoals at the mouth of the bay. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "To get to the 150-year-old Cana Island Lighthouse, you have to ride a wagon through Lake Michigan," 6 Sep. 2019 Just don’t fall into the harbor after drinking one of the many local beers on tap at this historic waterfront spot. Baltimore Sun Staff, baltimoresun.com, "Where to watch Ravens (or your favorite NFL team) play in Baltimore," 6 Sep. 2019 The base closed the harbor to civilian craft for about an hour on Aug. 29 while security boat crews trained by speeding around the docked USS New Orleans and simulated automatic gunfire with blank ammunition. Daniel Langhorne, Daily Pilot, "Navy awards $154 million construction contract to modernize Seal Beach base," 5 Sep. 2019 Crews began the search, which turned up an empty boat idling about a mile offshore from the harbor, the release says. Cory Shaffer, cleveland.com, "Coast Guard suspends search for Lake Erie boater missing near Cleveland," 2 Sep. 2019 The dance party went on for hours alongside a beach bonfire, and ended with a firework show over the harbor. Vogue, "The Dress Code Was “Beach Chic” For This Wedding in Harbour Island," 22 Aug. 2019 The fire became a sort of tourist attraction on the harbor. David Garrick, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Fishing boat blaze prompts new evaluation of firefighting on San Diego Bay," 22 Aug. 2019 This British-colonial era fort is built on a hill overlooking the harbor with a panoramic view of the Leeward side of the island. Anquanette Gaspard, Essence, "Get Lost: 72 Hours in St. Vincent," 29 July 2019 About 90 percent of urine is water, and this is treated and discharged into the harbor or reused as process water. Braden Phillips, Smithsonian, "Will Cities of the Future Have Floating Farms?," 13 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

There’s a secondary plot involving Salander’s evil (literally) twin sister, Camilla, a tool of Russian intelligence who harbors her own revenge fantasies. Richard Lipez, Washington Post, "Lisbeth Salander is back — and angrier than ever," 23 Aug. 2019 But, like a character in a comic book who harbors an inner arch-villain with a plan to destroy the universe, Grant had another side. Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, "When W. E. B. Du Bois Made a Laughingstock of a White Supremacist," 19 Aug. 2019 The series revolves around Platt as Payton Hobart, a wealthy student from Santa Barbara, California, who’s long harbored a passionate interest in becoming President of the United States. Joey Nolfi, EW.com, "Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Lange serve strong in The Politician first-look photos," 8 Aug. 2019 When the series ended last Sunday, the five women who harbored a dark secret were seen heading into their California seaside town's police station. Lynn Elber, chicagotribune.com, "HBO chief skeptical about another ‘Big Little Lies’ season," 25 July 2019 Cow vigilantes started patrolling neighborhoods looking to physically punish those who were allegedly harboring, consuming, or even transporting cows. Johnny Harris, Vox, "The violent rise of India’s cow vigilantes," 24 July 2019 Alongside the cast of unknowns, actor and auteur Mathieu Amalric makes a cameo as a motorcycle repairman who harbors what seems to be unusual healing powers. Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter, "'A Beautiful Summer' ('Le Bel été'): Film Review," 22 July 2019 In Matchmaker Santa, a baker (another baker!) who is dating a fancy CEO is thrown into compromising situations with her boyfriend’s BFF, who is harboring a secret crush on her. Lourdes Avila Uribe, Glamour, "What You Can Expect to See in Every Single Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie," 24 Dec. 2018 And Emmanuel’s Maya, an American political speechwriter, harbors a terminal attraction to inappropriate men. Kathryn Shattuck, New York Times, "After ‘Game of Thrones,’ Nathalie Emmanuel Is Ready to Take the Lead," 9 Aug. 2019

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

13 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

Comments on harbor

What made you want to look up harbor? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


agony, or difficult or painful work

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