from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The gear or tackle, other than a yoke, with which a draft animal pulls a vehicle or implement.
  • noun Something resembling such gear or tackle, as the arrangement of straps used to hold a parachute to the body.
  • noun A device that raises and lowers the warp threads on a loom.
  • noun Archaic Armor for a man or horse.
  • transitive verb To put a harness on (a draft animal).
  • transitive verb To fasten by the use of a harness.
  • transitive verb To bring under control and direct the force of.
  • idiom (in harness) On duty or at work.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Nautical, an obsolete term for the furniture of a ship.
  • To dress in armor; equip with armor for war, as a man or horse.
  • To fit out; equip; dress.
  • To equip or furnish for defense.
  • To put harness or working-tackle on, as a horse.
  • To fit up or put together with metal mountings.
  • To fasten to a boat by the toggle-iron and tow-line, as a whale.
  • noun The defensive armor and weapons of a soldier, especially of a knight; in general, and especially in modern poetical use, a suit of armor.
  • noun Clothing; dress; garments.
  • noun The working-gear or tackle of a horse, mule, ass, goat, dog, or other animal (except the ox) used for draft; the straps, collar, bridle, lines, traces, etc., put upon a draft-animal to enable it to work and to guide its actions. See cut in next column.
  • noun Hence Figuratively, working-tackle of any kind; an equipment for any kind of labor; also, that which fits or makes ready for labor: as, his duties keep him constantly in the harness.
  • noun The apparatus in a loom by which the sets of warp-threads are shifted alternately to form the shed. It consists of the heddles and their means of support and motion. Also called mounting.
  • noun The mechanism by which a large bell is suspended and tolled.
  • noun Temper; humor: alluding to the behavior of a horse in harness.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Originally, the complete dress, especially in a military sense, of a man or a horse; hence, in general, armor.
  • noun The equipment of a draught or carriage horse, for drawing a wagon, coach, chaise, etc.; gear; tackling.
  • noun The part of a loom comprising the heddles, with their means of support and motion, by which the threads of the warp are alternately raised and depressed for the passage of the shuttle.
  • noun to die with armor on; hence, colloquially, to die while actively engaged in work or duty.
  • transitive verb To dress in armor; to equip with armor for war, as a horseman; to array.
  • transitive verb Fig.: To equip or furnish for defense.
  • transitive verb To make ready for draught; to equip with harness, as a horse. Also used figuratively.
  • transitive verb (Zoöl.) See Guib.
  • transitive verb (Zoöl.) an American bombycid moth (Arctia phalerata of Harris), having, on the fore wings, stripes and bands of buff on a black ground.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun countable A restraint or support, especially one consisting of a loop or network of rope or straps.
  • noun countable A collection of wires or cables bundled and routed according to their function.
  • verb transitive to place a harness on something; to tie up or restrain
  • verb transitive to capture, control or put to use

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb exploit the power of
  • verb put a harness
  • noun stable gear consisting of an arrangement of leather straps fitted to a draft animal so that it can be attached to and pull a cart
  • verb control and direct with or as if by reins
  • noun a support consisting of an arrangement of straps for holding something to the body (especially one supporting a person suspended from a parachute)
  • verb keep in check


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English harnes, from Old French harneis, of Germanic origin; see nes- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Anglo-Norman harneis, Old French hernois ("equipment used in battle").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word harness.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • ... I learned to harness and hitch and work a team. Wendell Berry "A Native Hill"

    July 19, 2008