Grammar 101: Hoard or Horde?

I’m not entirely sure what is more frightening: the “item collectors” from the TV show Hoarders or the army of Orcs known as the Horde. Whatever the case, you’ll want to know the difference between hoard and horde.

One of the best ways to learn what your audience wants to know is to ask and that’s exactly what I do with these Grammar 101 posts that I write from time to time. Last month, I was asked to clarify today’s word pair. The problem, it seems, is that both words are pronounced exactly the same way, but they have entirely different meanings.

Just as people may confuse complement and compliment, mixing up hoard and horde can be surprisingly common when those terms enter the conversation.

Hoard can be used as a verb meaning to collect, save, and potentially hide items for future use. Going back to the popular television series Hoarders, you can see how the people featured in that show have amassed a large number of objects. They are hoarding these things. The same can be said about squirrels who collect nuts for the winter. They are hoarding food for future use.

Interestingly, hoard can also be used as a noun, referring to the actual collection of items that has been amassed by the hoarder. This is typically used in an archeological perspective, discussing a collection of valuables that may have been purposely hidden in the ground. The idea, I suppose, is to minimize the possibility of theft.

Horde is a noun that usually refers a large number of warring individuals. If you can imagine a wandering gang of barbarians who go around raiding villages along the way, you could say that these barbarians are a horde. In like manner, the attacking army of orcs in Lord of the Ring (or the Warcraft video game franchise) can be called a horde as well. A horde is typically nomadic in nature.

It’s understandable that some people can have a hard time deciding whether to use horde or hoard, just as they may have trouble with there, their, and they’re. Do you have a suggestion for a future Grammar 101 post? Don’t hesitate to ask via the comment form below.