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  1. a number of animals kept, feeding, or traveling together; drove; flock: a herd of cattle; a herd of sheep; a herd of zebras.
  2. Sometimes Disparaging. a large group of people: The star was mobbed by a herd of autograph seekers.
  3. any large quantity: a herd of bicycles.
  4. the herd, the common people; masses; rabble: He had no opinions of his own, but simply followed the herd.
verb (used without object)
  1. to unite or go in a herd; assemble or associate as a herd.
  1. ride herd on, to have charge or control of; maintain discipline over: He rode herd on 40 students in each class.

Origin of herd1

before 1000; Middle English; Old English heord; cognate with Gothic hairda, German Herde
Can be confusedheard herd


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1. See flock1. 2. crowd, mob.

Usage note


  1. a herdsman (usually used in combination): a cowherd; a goatherd; a shepherd.
verb (used with object)
  1. to tend, drive, or lead (cattle, sheep, etc.).
  2. to conduct or drive (a group of people) to a destination: The teacher herded the children into the classroom.

Origin of herd2

before 900; Middle English herd(e), hirde, Old English hierde; cognate with Gothic hairdeis, German Hirt(e); derivative of herd1


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2. guard, protect, watch.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for herd

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Only don't let the first woman that comes ridin' herd get her iron on you.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • I have in mind one old chap who used to herd the sheep on my uncle's farm.

    Ballads of a Bohemian

    Robert W. Service

  • She had just been taken into the herd that season and had the place of the favorite next to the leader.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • This farm to which he had devoted his life was taking it from him by a member of its herd.


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • Somewhere on these six hundred acres was the herd and it was his chore to find it and bring it in.


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

British Dictionary definitions for herd


  1. a large group of mammals living and feeding together, esp a group of cattle, sheep, etc
  2. often derogatory a large group of people
  3. derogatory the large mass of ordinary people
  1. to collect or be collected into or as if into a herd

Word Origin

Old English heord; related to Old Norse hjörth, Gothic hairda, Old High German herta, Greek kórthus troop


    1. archaic, or dialecta man or boy who tends livestock; herdsman
    2. (in combination)goatherd; swineherd
verb (tr)
  1. to drive forwards in a large group
  2. to look after (livestock)

Word Origin

Old English hirde; related to Old Norse hirthir, Gothic hairdeis, Old High German hirti, Old Saxon hirdi, herdi; see herd 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for herd


Old English heord "herd, flock," from Proto-Germanic *herdo- (cf. Old Norse hjorð, Old High German herta, German Herde, Gothic hairda "herd"), from PIE *kerdh- "a row, group, herd" (cf. Sanskrit śárdhah "herd, troop," Old Church Slavonic čreda "herd," Greek korthys "heap," Lithuanian kerdžius "shepherd"). Herd instinct in psychology is first recorded 1908.


mid-13c., "to watch over or herd (livestock);" of animals, "to gather in a herd, to form a flock," late 14c., from herd (n.). Related: Herded; herding.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with herd


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.