\ \ [12] Originally, a harbinger was simply someone who provided ‘harbour’ – that is, ‘shelter, lodging’. The word began life as a derivative of Old French herbergelodging’, a borrowing from heriberga, the Old Saxon equivalent of Old English herebeorg (whence modern English harbour). English acquired it as herbergere, and the n did not put in an appearance until the 15th century (it was quite a common phenomenon, seen also in messenger and passenger). As for its meaning, it developed in the 14th century to ‘someone sent on ahead to arrange for lodging for an army, an official royal party, etc’, and from this came the present-day figurative sense ‘forerunner’.

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.


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  • Harbinger — Har bin*ger, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Harbingered} (h[add]r b[i^]n*j[ e]rd); p. pr. & vb. n. {Harbingering}.] To usher in; to be a harbinger of. Thus did the star of religious freedom harbinger the day. Bancroft. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • harbinger — [här′bin jər] n. [ME herbergeour (with intrusive n ) < OFr herbergeor, provider of lodging < herberge, a shelter < Frank (or OHG) heriberga, shelter for soldiers < heri, army (see HARRY) + berga, a shelter < bergan, to protect: see …   English World dictionary

  • Harbinger — Har bin*ger (h[add]r b[i^]n*j[ e]r), n. [OE. herbergeour, OF. herbergeor one who provides lodging, fr. herbergier to provide lodging, F. h[ e]berger, OF. herberge lodging, inn, F. auberge; of German origin. See {Harbor}.] 1. One who provides… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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