a number of animals kept, feeding, or traveling together; drove; flock: a herd of cattle; a herd of sheep; a herd of zebras.
Sometimes Disparaging. a large group of people: The star was mobbed by a herd of autograph seekers.
any large quantity: a herd of bicycles.
the herd, the common people; masses; rabble: He had no opinions of his own, but simply followed the herd.

verb (used without object)

to unite or go in a herd; assemble or associate as a herd.


    ride herd on, to have charge or control of; maintain discipline over: He rode herd on 40 students in each class.

Origin of herd

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

Synonyms for herd

1. See flock1. 2. crowd, mob.

Usage note

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for ride herd on

drive, shepherd

British Dictionary definitions for ride herd on




a large group of mammals living and feeding together, esp a group of cattle, sheep, etc
often derogatory a large group of people
derogatory the large mass of ordinary people


to collect or be collected into or as if into a herd

Word Origin for herd

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)

to drive forwards in a large group
to look after (livestock)

Word Origin for herd

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 ride herd on



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.



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with ride herd on

ride herd on

Keep close watch or tight control over, as in Aunt Martha is always riding herd on her bridge club, making sure they follow the rules. This idiom alludes to the cowboy who rides around a herd of cattle to keep them together. [Late 1800s]


see ride herd on.

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