harbour

Definitions

General English

Commerce

  • noun a port, place where ships come to load or unload

Law

  • verb to give shelter and protection to a criminal

Military

  • noun a natural or man-made place where ships can shelter from the weather
  • noun a secure area in the field, where units can rest and reorganize before starting the next phase of an operation
  • verb to provide shelter (especially for a deserter or escaped prisoner)

Origin & History of “harbour”

Etymologically, a harbour is a ‘shelter for a crowd of people’. English acquired it in the late Anglo-Saxon period as herebeorg, perhaps borrowed from Old Norse herbergi, but it began life as a compound of prehistoric Germanic *kharjaz, originally ‘crowd’, later specifically ‘army’ (source also of English harry and related to harness) and *berg- ‘protect’ (which occurs in a range of English words, including barrow ‘mound’, borough, borrow, and bury). The original sense ‘shelter for a crowd or army’ had broadened out by historic times to the more general ‘shelter, lodging’. that is what Old English herebeorg meant, and gradually it underwent further semantic development, via ‘place in which shelter can be obtained’, to (as recently as the 16th century) ‘place of shelter for ships, port’.
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