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Pronunciation: hahr-bêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, verb

Meaning: 1. (Noun) A port that offers protected anchorage for ships. 2. (Noun) A place of refuge. 3. (Verb) To give shelter or refuge. 4. (Verb) To hold and maintain for a significant period, as 'to harbor doubts'.

Notes: Remember that this is word, along with others like labor and humor, adds a U to be spelled harbour in British English. The personal noun for the verb harbor is harborer (or harbourer) and the qualitative noun is harborage (or harbourage). We have a negative adjective, harborless, which may mean "without harbor(s)" or "homeless, without shelter".

In Play: 'In harbor' is an idiomatic expression like 'in school', to indicate a place: "The working girls down by the sea do quite well when lots of ships are in harbor." The verb in its second sense (No. 4 above) is used mostly when the harboring is secret: "Sheila knew her sister and boyfriend were secretly harboring feelings for each other when she caught them embracing."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Old English herebeorg "harbor, lodgings", made up of her(g)e "army, host" + beorg "refuge, protection". Her(g)e is the noun for OE hergian "to make war, plunder", from the Germanic rendition of PIE koro-/kero- "war", also the source of harry, German Heer "army", Danish and Norwegian hær "army", Persian kara "host, army", Greek koiranos "ruler, commander", Lithuanian karas "war", and Latvian karš "war". Beorg was either borrowed or came from a lightly attested PIE word bhergh- "to hide, protect". If so, we find German borgen "to borrow", English borrow and bury, Russian berežit' "cherish, protect", and Lithuanian birginti "to save, economize". (Now let's thank Rob Towart, a major contributor here, for not harboring today's semantically wobbly Good Word, but sharing it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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