Definition of harbinger in English:



  • 1A person or thing that announces or signals the approach of another:

    ‘witch hazels are the harbingers of spring’
    • ‘Everyone spoke about the heat, not really sure if it was a springtime anomaly or a harbinger of summer.’
    • ‘You see, when you look at the number in terms of consumer confidence, consumer spending, there are good harbingers in terms of how people are feeling about the economy.’
    • ‘Despite the harbingers of doom the demand for electricity in Ireland continues to increase, Mr McManus told the Cork Chamber of Commerce business breakfast in association with the Irish Examiner.’
    • ‘The Nasdaq correction is a major signal, but not the harbinger of disaster.’
    • ‘Rooks are the harbingers of spring and many people would love to have a rookery nearby, as we have at Penpergwm.’
    • ‘Those welcome harbingers of Spring, daffodils, are in some sheltered sun traps starting to display buds which will soon burst into golden bloom to signal the imminent curtain call for the Winter season.’
    • ‘IBM's warning last week was one of several negative signals from the industry and may be a harbinger of the earnings reports to come.’
    • ‘They all seemed to be omens to me, harbingers of misfortune, only multiplying the dread I was beginning to feel already for Monday.’
    • ‘It's the first crack of the bat that's the true harbinger of spring.’
    • ‘Insiders say that rumblings behind the scenes at ABC's ‘Nightline’ are harbingers of possible dramatic news about the show's future.’
    • ‘Here there are obvious earth shapes that tell of a village abandoned in the seventeenth century, and we saw a lovely patch of snowdrops and aconites, the prettiest harbingers of spring.’
    • ‘Here in Minnesota, we've seen some harbingers of spring too, albeit on a slower schedule - slush in the streets, dirty cars, shrinking snowpiles.’
    • ‘I am told I am on Prospero's Isle, where the scent of the cempak flower is said to ease the pains of the world, where frangipani blooms rain down as harbingers of a storm, where even the poverty is wrapped in shiny banana leaves.’
    • ‘The crows are great as harbingers of spring but wear out their welcome quickly by shamelessly eating songbird eggs and cawing endlessly about absolutely nothing on the oaks surrounding my yard.’
    • ‘Najaf governor Ali al-Zurufi has just announced that he sees the harbingers of a settlement of the crisis.’
    • ‘In addition, there have been well-publicised harbingers both of incipient ethnic conflict and of strong mass opposition to a long-term US military presence and a US-chosen Iraqi Government.’
    • ‘It's just that its call is the harbinger of spring - a signal to start chucking chlorine into the swimming pool.’
    • ‘For a moment our man wondered whether the black clouds were harbingers of some unforeseen ill omen, symbolic as they were of the darkness, representing the unknown.’
    • ‘Through sleet and rain, through 25 cm of April snow, through the buzz of locusts, we turn to these weather prognosticators for harbingers of better times.’
    • ‘The most obvious harbingers of a life running off the rails - drugs, booze, gambling - don't seem to have figured in Rondestvedt's downfall.’
    herald, sign, indicator, indication, signal, prelude, portent, omen, augury, forewarning, presage, announcer
    forerunner, precursor, messenger, usher
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    1. 1.1 A forerunner of something:
      ‘these works were not yet opera but they were the most important harbinger of opera’
      • ‘Indeed, during the last decade the chief harbingers of leftist ideas have been the cosmopolitan intellectuals rather than the working class for whom they were intended.’
      • ‘One might take him as a premature harbinger of cultural studies, but for his important flaw of attachment to art.’
      • ‘Yet the fact that a few Nazis admired classical architects doesn't mean that classical architects are, perforce, the harbingers of totalitarianism.’
      • ‘Last Sunday I heard the unmistakable sound of the first cuckoo, traditional harbinger of a spring election.’
      • ‘Post colonial studies have flourished in an age where IMF and World Bank austerity programmes have been renounced as harbingers of neo imperialism.’
      • ‘Pioneers of bushwalking and advocates of national parks were the harbingers of an engagement with nature that at last offered respect for and restitution of the environment.’
      • ‘In this way, Wislicenus stands as a harbinger of a physical chemical, mechanistic approach to organic structure.’
      • ‘Those examples of working across different media are the most important to understand, as they are the harbinger of the future.’
      • ‘Caucasian men are either evil skirt-chasers OR the harbingers of a greater civilisation - but only in their own minds.’
      • ‘The huge rally in the bond market last Thursday, in spite of renewed dollar weakness, could be a harbinger of something very important.’
      • ‘In a way then, you could almost call them harbingers of innovation… like wars have been for all of humanity's history…’
      • ‘The car keeps London gridlocked into a dysfunctional twentieth century, lending support for Ballard's view that it is the suburbs, not the metropolises, which are the harbingers of the future.’
      • ‘Where the anti-terrorists panic about evil individuals sneaking on to flights and doing bad things, the bird-flu worriers see all people moving around the world as the potential harbingers of death and disease.’
      • ‘Monday's rallies would be important only if they are a harbinger of much bigger and more confrontational demonstrations down the road.’
      • ‘Come now, what else could I possibly say about a weblog which argues that Girls Aloud - ‘the anti-Carrie Bradshaws’ - are the harbingers of a new punk revolution?’
      preliminary, prelude, curtain-raiser, introduction, lead-in, precursor, forerunner, herald, start, beginning
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Middle English: from Old French herbergere, from herbergier provide lodging for, from herberge lodging, from Old Saxon heriberga shelter for an army, lodging (from heri army + a Germanic base meaning fortified place), related to harbour. The term originally denoted a person who provided lodging, later one who went ahead to find lodgings for an army or for a nobleman and his retinue, hence, a herald (mid 16th century).