Harbour and Port

Discussion in 'English Only' started by may_avimo, Dec 29, 2005.

  1. may_avimo New Member

    Spain and Spanish
    Hi there!!! We are trying a translation and don't know the difference between "port" and "harbour", does anybody know?
    Thank you in advance!!!
  2. Nenita84

    Nenita84 Senior Member

    España / español
    I think that the difference is that one is natural and the other one, artificial. I mean one has been build by men. I think that the natural one is the port and on the other hand, the artificial one would be the "harbour". However it´s a long time since I studied it, so don´t trust me!!
  3. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hola May_avimo,
    Welcome to the forums.

    Both mean the same thing. Puerto. However, harbor(AE) or harbour (BE) can also imply a refuge.

  4. Hi,

    A port is a large mass of deep water which can accommodate sea-going vessels: passenger ferries, warships, merchant ships, etc. It is where goods are loaded on board merchant ships for export, or unloaded from ships for onward distribution.

    A harbour is much smaller and is a safe haven for fishing boats and small pleasure craft, although largish yachts may be moored there too.
  5. Nenita84

    Nenita84 Senior Member

    España / español
    Buff, but for example, "Pearl Harbor" in Hawai was a huge harbour/port. And it was called "harbour", wasn´t it?
  6. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    A BE dict., Cambridge Advanced Learner's, offers

    for harbour, and says this of port

  7. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    According to WR's own EN dictionary...

    a place (seaport or airport) where people and merchandise can enter or leave a country


    Harbour: a sheltered port where ships can take on or discharge cargo

    I'm all at sea over this.
  8. Yes of course it was. The original thread was 'what is the difference between a port and a harbour' so I was generalising to explain the difference as we know it in the UK. I live on an island. To get to mainland England I take a catamaran ferry to Portsmouth Harbour (small). When I travel overseas I leave from the port of Portsmouth, which is quite a distance from the harbour and ENORMOUS.:)

    No fisherman in a small boat would dare to go near a port, but he can happily go in and out of the harbour.
  9. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
  10. may_avimo New Member

    Spain and Spanish
    Wow!! This is really fantastic!!! Thank you all very much!! Now I'll be able to finish my translation.
    Happy New Year!!!!!!
  11. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    I first believed that Pearl Harbor got its name long time ago when it was a safe harbour for whaling ships, without any man-made constructions. But this was a wrong answer; I checked and found out that in the 19th century it was called "Pearl Bay" and only later (when???) it got its present name.
  12. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    Not to flog a dead horse :D , but when I was sailing in the Pacific we called any reasonably secure anchorage (ie, protected on 3 sides) a harbour. To be considered a port it had to have a support system, as already pointed out earlier in this thread, for freighter traffic.
  13. maxiogee Banned

    I think a port is a place where goods are imported/exported.
    A harbour is just a safe anchorage.
  14. cirrus

    cirrus Senior Member

    UK English
    Not to be deliberately nitpicky... that's not strictly the case. You could have a safe anchorage that isn't a harbour. The harbour has to be a place where you can get to land easily. An anchorage could be between two islands without a harbour in sight.
  15. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    Agreed ... but the idea of "getting to land easily" is a relative one. In practice, sometimes the difference between an anchorage and a harbour simply boils down to the odds of your capsizing as you row in through the surf.
  16. sevengem

    sevengem Senior Member

    Yes, I have the same question too. Are there any conventions here?
  17. cirrus

    cirrus Senior Member

    UK English
    I think you can conclude from all of this that they are pretty much synonyms. Sydney Harbour is one of the world's largest natural harbours and is a port. Milford Haven, at the mouth of the Daugleddau is one of the UK's deepest natural harbours and as well as being a fishing port works as one of the UK's largest ports for energy imports.

    Looking at both these sentences which I have just made up I wonder whether you could substitute port for harbour. Natural port doesn't sound right to me so that suggests that harbour could be both a port and a natural haven.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2012
  18. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    English - England
    I think, though, that the dear departed Maxiogee had a point in post 13. "Harbour" (and the frequently metaphorical "haven") emphasize protection from storms, and "port" makes you think of loading and unloading vessels. However, a harbour can serve as a port, and a port can serve as a harbour.
  19. Don't forget the metaphorical phrase any port in a storm.

    'Harbour' doesn't work there.

  20. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    As the 18 posts above have shown, there is no difference in meaning. At least none that we can all agree on!

    There is however a difference in usage: an entire town can be a port; only the waterside area is a harbour. E.g: We arrived in the port of Newhaven and walked down to the harbour. As we stood there on the harbour/port, a boat came in.
  21. pwmeek

    pwmeek Senior Member

    SE Michigan, USA
    English - American
    They are nearly synonymous in use, and ports are almost always found in harbors.

    The port is the place where ships load and unload cargo and take on supplies. It may be (usually is) situated by a harbor. It is not the harbor itself. Note that it ultimately derives from the Latin word for gateway - a place that people and things go through.

    The harbor (or harbour) is the protected bit of water (not the land by the water) where ships anchor or tie up at wharves and piers. It may (sometimes does) have a port associated with it. It may be natural, man-made (with seawalls, breakwaters etc.) or a combination of the two. Also called at times a "haven".

    If you are on land, you may be at or on the waterfront, at the harbor (but not in it or on it). If you are in port, your boat or ship is in the harbor, and you are ashore doing business. If your ship is in port, it is in the harbor associated with the port, and some members of its crew are ashore or waiting to go ashore (to visit or do business in the port).

    Any port in a storm takes advantage of the similarity in meaning and the the internal rhyme (port - storm) to make a memorable aphorism. Accurately (but unmemorably) it should be "Any harbor in a storm".
  22. nrlmd New Member

    English - United States
    So, what is it if the boat is on land in Dry Dock. Is it in the harbor or the Port. :)

    Living on an Island in Lake MI, the land nearest town is referenced as the Port of St. James, which has two townships in it. The land located outside the Port is basically the rest of the island. The Harbor is the body of water surrounded by land on 3 sides, protected from the North, West and South; that ships enter, commercial or recreational, and either tie up to a dock or anchor out in the harbor. There is no other Port or Harbor. There are small inlets exposed to Lake Michigan around the island that are referenced as Bays, e.g., Iron Ore Bay. Chances are if you didn't know it had a name of Iron Ore Bay, you'd perceive it as shoreline. So, the inhabitants live on Beaver Island whose main entrance and exit is the Harbor in the Port of St. James. The island has various Bays along its shoreline.
  23. Manal Ghannamy New Member

    Cairo, Egypt
    A harbour is a place where ships may shelter from the weather or are stored. Harbors can be man-made or natural. A man-made harbor will have sea walls or breakwaters and may require dredging. A natural harbor is surrounded on most sides by land.

    Harbors and ports are often confused. A port is a man-made coastal or riverine facility where boats and ships can load and unload. It may consist of quays, wharfs, jetties, piers and slipways with cranes or ramps. A port may have magazine buildings or warehouses for storage of goods and a transport system, such as railway, road transport or pipeline transport facilities for relaying goods inland.

    in short a port is used mainly for marine trading and a harbour is used as a parking space or a storage space for ships
  24. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    Chambers English Dictionary (1990) has for the two words the following relevant meanings:
    As these entries show, it is a mistake to try to give the words mutually exclusive meanings: they overlap significantly.

    It is also a mistake in general to think that if different words exist, then different things must also exist to correspond to the words.
  25. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    In translation, you often have to deal with words that have a number of different meanings.

    First you need to identify the specific meaning in the given context in the source language.
    Then you have to find a suitable word in the target language to express that particular meaning.

    The consequence of this is that, in different contexts, the same word will require different translations.

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