Thursday, May 19, 2016

Language of Confusion: Gardens

We’re looking at the word garden today, although not just the word garden or it would be a short post. We’re also looking at regard and wondering why the hell the suffix -gard is so different from the prefix gard-. Because these are the kinds of things that bother me.

Garden showed up in the late thirteenth century as a noun and then in the late sixteenth century as a verb. It comes from the Old North French gardin, which is basically a garden, but also an orchard or “palace grounds”. That word comes from the Vulgar Latin phrase hortus gardinus, enclosed garden—and for the record, it’s hortus that means garden in classical Latin and no one’s sure about a lot of Vulgar Latin, so who the hell knows where gardinus came from. And it should also be noted that the word yard is actually related to it, too. It comes from the Old English geard, which just means yard. Before that it was the Proto Germanic gardaz, which happens to be another descendant of hortus gardinus.

Now for regard. I’m sure this won’t be stupid or confusing in any way. It showed up in the mid fourteenth century meaning consider, which is pretty close to the definition we have today, coming from the Middle French regarder, to look at, and Old French regarder (it’s a different language so it’s a different word!), take notice of. The re- prefix is just intensive here and garder is just look or heed. And oh yeah, it’s related to guard. And ward. But not garden.

TL;DR: We’re totally using the wrong word for garden. And yard.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English


  1. Always so interesting! One wouldn't think a word like garden has such a complicated history.

  2. And if you go all the way back, the first garden was the Garden of Eden. Wonder what they actually called it?

  3. Gardens are occupying me at present, what with all the tulips I'm featuring in my photoblog.

  4. I can kind of see how guard would come from regard. But are you saying that gardinus meant enclosed?

  5. My mental garden is all weedy at the moment.

  6. I don't care if I'm using garden wrong. =P LOL

  7. I didn't think of that before. The suffix and prefix are indeed different.


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