Each week here at the Australian Writers’ Centre, we dissect and discuss, contort and retort, ask and gasp at the English language and all its rules, regulations and ridiculousness. It’s a celebration of language, masquerading as a passive-aggressive whinge about words and weirdness. This week, we have no hoard feelings…
Q: Hi AWC, can we please discuss the difference between ‘horde’ and ‘hoard’?
A: Have you been stockpiling toilet paper in your basement again?
Q: No! Ahem… Just pasta, rice and chapsticks.
Q: Yes, I don’t want to get my apocalypse dry.
Q: But seriously, do I “hoard” these items or “horde” them?
A: “Hoard” is what you’re looking for – a noun that turned up in the 13th century, meaning “a treasure, valuable stock or store; an accumulation of something for preservation or future use.” Originally spelt “hord” and from an Old Norse word that literally meant “hidden treasure”.
Q: And what about the verb?
A: It arrived about the same time – “to collect, and store; amass and deposit for preservation or future use.”
Q: Makes sense. So you’re saying that if I hoard enough tins of peaches then I’ll have myself a hoard of peaches?
A: Correct. It’s both the accumulation of something for future use AND the resulting accumulation.
Q: What about tins of apricots?
A: Yep. The same.
Q: And tins of pears?
A: Any fruit! Anything! Gold. Clothing. Money. Newspapers. If you stockpile it, then you hoard it.
Q: My uncle Travis had a hoard of pears but his neighbours forced him to give them up. He said it was due to pear pressure.
A: Oh dear.
Q: So what does “horde” mean then?
A: Horde is newer into English (16th century), arriving via Polish and Turkish “ordu” – meaning a camp of nomadic warriors. A “horde” is described by Macquarie Dictionary as “a large group of people, especially attackers or invaders”. They go on to say that it could also be a group of animals, such as locusts.
Q: Yeah, because after the fires, floods and disease this year, a horde of locusts would be just marvellous, wouldn’t it?
A: Relax, it’s just an example.
Q: So basically a “horde” is a pitch-fork waving, burning-torch wielding angry bunch of people?
A: At its core, yes. Although it’s often used colloquially to simply describe a large number of people. For example, “hordes of people stormed the store on Black Friday” – that’s less about anger and more about discount flat screen TVs.
Q: Got it. And is “horde” just a noun?
A: Well many dictionaries go with that. However, Macquarie also lists the verb “horde”, as in “to gather in a horde”. So in the previous example, you could say that shoppers were noted hording the store. But that usage is rare.
Q: And what if I decided to stockpile lots of pitchforking people? Would I be hoarding or hording?
A: You’d be hoarding a horde. And the result in your basement would be both a hoard and a horde. Hope you’ve got enough pasta and rice.
Q: Okay, very funny. Now, there’s “hoarding” as a verb, but I’ve also heard of a physical “hoarding”. What’s that?
A: It’s unrelated. A “hoarding” is a temporary fence, usually around a building site. Outside America, it’s also a billboard – so you might see ads on hoardings.
Q: And what if I collected enough of THOSE?
A: Sigh… then YES, you’d be hoarding hoardings. Is that what you wanted to hear?
Q: It was. Tee hee.
A: Glad we could help.
Q: So as a recap, to stockpile things is to “hoard”. The pile itself is also a “hoard”. An angry crowd of people is a “horde”. But the big pile of pitchforks they choose from is in fact a “hoard”.
A: Sounds about right. If confused, think of the “a” in “hoard” as standing for “accumulate”.
Q: Great. Now, can I interest you in some chapsticks? I only bought them for that joke earlier…
If you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore, email it to us today!