E 0445          HERD, HORDE

The word "herd" is of Germanic origin. "Horde" is of uncertain origin.

H 0117            ר ד ע

Concept of root : herd

Hebrew word


English meanings

ר ד ע



Related English words


Comparison between European words and Hebrew




English meanings

Similarity in roots


ר ד ע



‛e d r





he r d

ho r d

Old Indian




s r d



Proto-Semitic *‛ADER --- *HERD Indo-European



This similarity is a clear example of a metathesis, in which the letters "D" and "R" have changed their respective places. The sound "R" is frequently actor of a metathesis.



  • "H", "S" and "Ayin". We find these in the three words mentioned in the above table. In the forming of languages fixed rules are hard to define, but frequent developments can be seen. And this is an example of a frequent development. The S, H and Ayin may correspond to each other in words in various languages, developed out of one original root.


  • Hebrew. There are four identical roots "Ayin D R" in Hebrew. They mean :


    1. to set in order, arrange, as in E 0639 (Hebrew 0116) and related to entry E 0640 ( Hebrew 0847).


    2. herd, flock


    3. to hoe


    4. to be lacking, fail.


    The first two meanings seem clearly related to each other. A "herd" indicates that a number of animals has been put into a certain, be it limited, order. But some scholars believe that meaning 4 is related to that of "herd", as it would indicate (also) an animal that is missing or lagging behind. But the essential characteristic of the herd is that it stays together, not that someone misses. This looks like the same kind of error that is seen in the popular expression that "the exception confirms the rule", which is nonsense. The exception is an exception simply and only because the rule exists.


  • English this time is the European language that comes nearest to Hebrew. The word "herd" is an old Germanic word, also found in Old English as "heord". This last word , like English " horde " , uses a vowel O. This recalls the O of "order" of the entry E 0639 (Hebrew 0116). Both entries can be seen as related. Also a "horde" is then related to "order", though its orderliness is more limited to its belonging together than to that of its regular ranks and files. Thus the word "horde" has acquired a meaning of "disorder". The ways of language are sometimes inscrutable.


    The word "horde" is often seen as a loanword. This loaning would have occurred from Turkish "ordu = army" in a very indirect way, around the 16th century, via Tatar and especially Polish, that has the word "horda". This hypothesis does not explain why an initial consonant "H" would have been introduced. Nor does it explain how come a Turkish "ordu" would become Tatar "urdu" and then regain the vowel "O" in Polish "horda" and German "Horde". See also our note "Other languages".


  • Germanic. In various Germanic languages we find :


    Gothic hairdo; hairdeis herd; (shep)-herd


    Old English heord; hierde(scīp)hyrde herd; (shep)-herd


    Old Norse hjorš; hiršir herd ; (shep)-herd


    Swedish hjord ; herde herd ; (shep)-herd


    Old High German herta; hirti herd ; (shep)-herd


    German Herde; Hirt herd ; (shep)-herd


    Old English "eowd" and Gothic "awedhi" have a different root. They indicate specifically a "herd of sheep".


  • Proto-Germanic . There is a hypothesis of "*khird-ō,khirdia-, khirdian-", inspired by the wish to establish a link with other Indo_European groups that have an initial " Ś ", developed out of an earlier " K ". But even so, this does not justify to suppose an original Proto-Germanic "KH". The link has not been established.


    If the English word "horde" is of uncertain origin, "herd" is clearly Germanic. All Germanic words have the initial "H", "R" after the vowel and a dental that is mostly "D", with its variations as for example "Ð" in Old Norse. German and its predecessors as so often changed the "D" into "T". After the initial "H" we see in Gothic "AI", in West Germanic "E", with the exception of Old English "heord" that may be influenced by North Germanic where we see "JO" and some older "IO" . The related words for the "herdsman" have, besides Gothic "AI", a vowel "I" or "Y" with exceptions in English and modern Swedish "herde". A Nordic "JO" is also seen in words like Norwegian "hjort", and its Nordic sisters, and is to be compared to an "E" in Dutch, Middle Dutch, Middle Low German and Old Frisian "hert(e) ". Old English has here "heorot" and modern English "hart". In this case Proto-Germanic "*H E RT-" is hypothesized. And for "herd" the same hypothesis exists for Proto-Germanic : "*H E RD-".


  • Hebrew . There is a hypothesis that this Hebrew word "‛eder" for " herd" has been derived from a verb that has a comparable root : " Ayin.D.R, adar". This verb is found in the passive form as saying : " to lack" and in the intensive form " to make lack ".
    Thus the "‛eder" or "herd" would originally have been a group of animals that stayed behind as the bulk of the herd left. This supposition is based on the existence of an Arab verb " gadira " with a meaning of " to lag behind". This is stretching fantasy a bit too far.


    The root of this entry indicates a complete herd, a group of animals subject to a , be it limited, kind of order . It is the same root "Ayin.D.R" that indicates that existence of or being in a certain order , as presented in Entry E 0639 (Hebrew 0116) .


  • Proto-Semitic has the hypothetical word "*adir", with the same root as Hebrew. It must be remarked that the vowel "I" is quite uncertain or even improbable and anyhow should not be part of the root that remains also in Proto-Semitic: "* ע ד ר , giving adar or ader".


  • Other languages show words that might be well related to the root of this entry. We have inserted English "horde", which is alike to German and Dutch "Horde , horde" and the order of which is of about the same level of that of a herd of cattle. They are for the moment for some reason solidly together, but they do not keep neatly rank and file as the word order would suppose.



    This word is interesting because it is akin to Serbian and Bulgarian "ordija" that says "army"! Even more striking is that we find this also in Turkish and Tatar "urdu" for "army.



    As already mentioned, the immediate supposition has been and still is that the southern Slavs have the word from the Turks. But that makes the similarity not less interesting. Some scholars consider even the German word "Horde" as coming from the Tatars , via the Balkan and Polish "horda" (why ever this detour ?). The Tatar word "urdu" was in this view derived from Turkish " ordu". We do not subscribe this hypothesis . It is quite possible that the Turkish word for "army", indicating a regular and orderly organization of soldiers, would have come from Greek or Latin. The same seems to be the case for Bulgarian "ordija = army" and Neo Latin Rumanian "orda = army, encampment". To this must be added that popular Ukrainian has "gordą" which seems a clear indication of a Slavic pronunciation of a Germanic word with initial "H". The origin of English "horde" remains unclear.


  • Indo-European. On the basis of just Old Indian and Germanic it is rather risky to make a hypothesis, like the existing "* K E RD(H)- >". We tend to substitute this with just "*H E R D-".





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 29/09/2012 at 15.54.16