What Does Harbinger of Doom Mean?

The Harbinger of Doom Meaning

Definition: A bad omen; a signal that something bad will happen.

Origin of Harbinger of Doom

The original definition, from the 1100s, of harbinger was an innkeeper. However, people do not use the word in this way in modern times.

By the 1200s, the meaning had changed to mean a person who went ahead of a military group in order to scout and bring back news. Eventually, the definition became someone who or something that announces the arrival of another.

By the 1700s, people were using it figuratively, as we use it today.

It can precede something positive, or neutral, such as harbinger of dawn, or harbinger of victory. However, the most common collocation is harbinger of doom. Doom can mean death or annihilation.

Examples of Harbinger of Doom

Define harbinger of doom In this example, two friends are discussing something bad that they think will come to pass.

Cassie: Oh no! Look! It’s a black cat.

Rebecca: So what?

Cassie: Well, I broke a mirror today, I walked underneath a ladder, and now I’ve seen a black cat. Those are all bad luck! Something terrible is about to happen. I’m sure of it.

Rebecca: Don’t worry. I know that cat. His name is Oscar, and he loves belly rubs. He’s hardly a harbinger of doom.

Cassie: That’s what you think! But I know he is a bad omen.

fiddlesticks the harbinger of doom In the dialogue below, two men are discussing a TV show they like.

Antonio: I’m so confused. Why is this character acting like he never met that other character?

Igor: I guess the station changed the order of the episodes. That’s too bad. I really liked this show.

Antonio: What do you mean?

Igor: When a station moves the order of the episodes, it is usually because they are making a last attempt to gain more viewers by putting their more exciting episodes first. It almost never works. It’s basically a harbinger of doom for a TV show.

More Examples

This excerpt is about rain and how it is bringing bad things to an area.

  • Rain, any other year a blessing in this arid region, is now a harbinger of doom. Since the spill, the rain reawakens the chemicals that leached into the river beds and turn the water a muddied dark brown. –LA Times

This excerpt uses the expression to describe a character.

  • Robards set the tone for Hickey as a cynical, diabolical harbinger of doom, a tone that was picked up in later New York revivals: James Earl Jones’s in 1974, Kevin Spacey’s in 1999. –New York Times


The phrase harbinger of doom is someone or something that signals impending bad events.