Harbour (BE)/Harbor (AmE)[1]

  • ME word has been assumed to be taken from Norse, but the phonology points rather to an OE type (might be taken from Norse).
  • The history shows two lines of phonetic change:
    • her -> her
    • the weakening of the second element to –ber, -bor, -bour
    • The current form “harbour” exhibits both of these changes.
  • Various spellings – it appears in modern-day form (both BE and AmE) in 17th century
  • Meanings:
    • a. Shelter, lodging, entertainment: sojourn, abode – as early as mid-12th century (spelled as herbyrȝe)
    • b. The “house,” mansion, zodiac (Chaucer)
    • c. Retreat of wild animals
    • d. Used figuratively
    • e. Port (late 13th century)
    • f. Airship shed/hangar (1909, 1912)
    • g. A vessel used for mixing ingredients for glass making (19th century)
    • h. A number of compounds



ME: synystre, synistre, sinistre; syne-, sinester; syny-, syni-, sinister; senestre, sene-, seni-, senyster

ModE: sinister

stress: siˈnister (17th, 18th ct.), ˈsinister

- from Old French senestre, sinistre or Latin sinister (meaning 'left' or 'left-hand' - the opposite of dexter; the original meaning is present in ModE but mainly archaic/used in Heraldry)


  • original meaning: on the left side of the body; lying towards the left hand; situated on the left hand of a shield (Heraldry)
  • given with intent to deceive or mislead, esp. so as to create a prejudice against some person; false and dishonest - about information, suggestions, advice, etc. (obsolete - 15th, 16th century)
  • prejudicial, adverse, unfavourable, suspicious - about opinions (15th-17th ct.) - e.g. Some evil Suspicion or sinister Thoughts concerning me.
  • dishonest, unfair; not straightforward, underhand; dark - about actions, practices (common in 1470-1650)
  • corrupt, evil, bad - e.g. He speaks of bad manners and vitious humors and sinister affections, envy, contention, contumacy, incontinency.
  • portending or indicating misfortune or disaster; full of dark or gloomy suggestiveness; inauspicious, unfavourable - about omens (originally denoting omens seen on the left hand, which was regarded as the unlucky side)
  • unlucky, unfortunate (common in 1580-1670)
  • unfavourable, harmful, prejudicial to a person


Forms: dextrous, adj.; dexterious adj.,

Pronunciation: /ˈdɛkstərəs/ /ˈdɛkstrəs/

Etymology: < Latin dexter, dextr- right, handy, dexterous, dextra the right hand + -OUS suffix. If an analogous word had been formed in Latin, it would have been dextrōsus; hence dextrous (compare sinistrous) is the more regular form; but dexterous appears to prevail in 19th cent. prose.


  • Situated on the right side or right-hand; right, as opposed to left; = DEXTER adj. 1, DEXTRAL adj., --> Example: 1646 SIR T. BROWNE Pseudodoxia Epidemica IV. v. 190 “The dextrous and sinistrous parts of the body.”
  • In a bad sense: ‘Clever’, crafty, cunning. Obs.
  • Handy, convenient, suitable, fitting. Obs.
  • Deft or nimble of hand, neat-handed
  • Having mental adroitness or skill; skilful or expert in contrivance or management


Forms: glamer, glamor, glammar, glamour

Pronunciation: /ˈɡlæmə(r)/

Etymology: originally coming from Scots as a corrupt form of grammar


  • magic, enchantment, spell (e.g. in the phrase to cast the glamour over sb)
  • a dellusive or alluring charm
  • attractiveness; feminine beauty


Pronunciation: /ˈwɔːlɒk/

Forms:[4] OE wǽrloga, wérloga ME warlou, werlau, werlaw, warlock, warelocke

- the form used in PDE appears first in Scots in the 16th century when the ending -ck was added to mean “a male equivalent of a witch[5]

Present-day meaning:[4] “One in league with the Devil and so possessing occult and evil powers; a sorcerer, wizard.”

Can be found in[4]:

  1. Judith - refers to a wicked person
  2. Cursor Mundi - refers to a damned soul in hell, the Devil, Satan, monstrous creature
  3. Morte Arthure - refers to a traitor

Etymology:[4] in OE used as a weak masculine noun wǽr-loga which meant a traitor, an enemy, or the evil

two lexemes:

  1. wǽr (derived from OE adjective wǽr = "true") = strong feminine noun meaning "a covenant, the truth, a vow or a solemn promise, faith" (as in Slavonic languages - Czech víra) - from Proto-Germanic *wera- (cognates: Old High German wara "truth," Old Norse varar "solemn promise, vow"), from PIE *were-o- "true, trustworthy"[5]
  2. loga = a noun usually used as an agent, derived from OE verb léogan = "to tell a lie" (of a Germanic origin, also connected with Slavonic languages - lhát)

=> original primary sense was thus an oath-breaker but already in OE period, it was often applied to the Devil, due to the language in scriptures, it became to be used for magicians and savage monsters

Other possible meanings:[4]

  • fetters, a shackle: OE waru => ware = guard + loc = lock; as a verb: to secure with fetters
  • sometimes applied as same as charlock = field mustard (the plant)
  • might have been originally a Norwegian word meaning a pile of stones
  • as a verb: to bar oneself against a hostile invasion


  1. "harbour." OED Online Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web 3 March 2015.
  2. “sinister” The Oxford English Dictionary. 3 Mar 2015 <>.
  4. 4,0 4,1 4,2 4,3 4,4 “warlock.” The Oxford English Dictionary. Available on <> 9 March 2015.
  5. 5,0 5,1 “warlock.” Harper, D. Online Etymology Dictionary. 2001. Available on <> 9 March 2015.