See more synonyms for ward on Thesaurus.com
  1. a division or district of a city or town, as for administrative or political purposes.
  2. one of the districts into which certain English and Scottish boroughs are divided.
  3. a division, floor, or room of a hospital for a particular class or group of patients: a convalescent ward; a critical ward.
  4. any of the separate divisions of a prison.
  5. a political subdivision of a parish in Louisiana.
  6. Mormon Church. one of the subdivisions of a stake, presided over by a bishop.
  7. Fortification. an open space within or between the walls of a castle or fortified place: the castle's lower ward.
  8. Law.
    1. a person, especially a minor, who has been legally placed under the care of a guardian or a court.
    2. the state of being under the care or control of a legal guardian.
    3. guardianship over a minor or some other person legally incapable of managing his or her own affairs.
  9. the state of being under restraining guard or in custody.
  10. a person who is under the protection or control of another.
  11. a movement or posture of defense, as in fencing.
  12. a curved ridge of metal inside a lock, forming an obstacle to the passage of a key that does not have a corresponding notch.
  13. the notch or slot in the bit of a key into which such a ridge fits.
  14. the act of keeping guard or protective watch: watch and ward.
  15. Archaic. a company of guards or a garrison.
verb (used with object)
  1. to avert, repel, or turn aside (danger, harm, an attack, an assailant, etc.) (usually followed by off): to ward off a blow; to ward off evil.
  2. to place in a ward, as of a hospital or prison.
  3. Archaic. to protect; guard.

Origin of ward

before 900; (noun) Middle English warde, Old English weard; (v.) Middle English warden, Old English weardian; cognate with Middle Dutch waerden, German warten; cf. guard
Related formsward·less, adjective

Synonyms for ward

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  1. (Aaron) Montgomery,1843–1913, U.S. merchant and mail-order retailer.
  2. Ar·te·mas [ahr-tuh-muh s] /ˈɑr tə məs/, 1727–1800, American general in the American Revolution.
  3. Ar·te·mus [ahr-tuh-muh s] /ˈɑr tə məs/, Charles Farrar Browne, 1834–67, U.S. humorist.
  4. BarbaraBaroness Jackson of Lodsworth, 1914–81, English economist and author.
  5. Mrs. HumphryMary Augusta Arnold, 1851–1920, English novelist, born in Tasmania.
  6. Sir Joseph George,1856–1930, New Zealand statesman, born in Australia: prime minister 1906–12, 1928–30.
  7. Lester Frank,1841–1913, U.S. sociologist.
  8. NathanielTheodore de la Guard, 1578?–1652, English clergyman, lawyer, and author in America.
  9. a male given name.


  1. a native English suffix denoting spatial or temporal direction, as specified by the initial element: toward; seaward; afterward; backward.
Also -wards.

Origin of -ward

Middle English; Old English -weard towards; cognate with German -wärts; akin to Latin vertere to turn (see verse)

Usage note

Both -ward and -wards occur in such words as backward, forward, upward, and toward. The -ward form is by far the more common in edited American English writing.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for ward

Contemporary Examples of ward

Historical Examples of ward

  • "Miss Ward's case has not yet been settled," she said slowly.

  • But are you quite certain that you are acting wisely, Miss Ward?

  • Small as the incident was, it marked a change in Sidney's position in the ward.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • The Christmas excitement had not died out in the ward when Carlotta went back to it.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • The lame girl who played the violin limped down the corridor into the ward.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

British Dictionary definitions for ward


  1. (in many countries) a district into which a city, town, parish, or other area is divided for administration, election of representatives, etc
  2. a room in a hospital, esp one for patients requiring similar kinds of carea maternity ward
  3. one of the divisions of a prison
  4. an open space enclosed within the walls of a castle
  5. law
    1. Also called: ward of courta person, esp a minor or one legally incapable of managing his own affairs, placed under the control or protection of a guardian or of a court
    2. guardianship, as of a minor or legally incompetent person
  6. the state of being under guard or in custody
  7. a person who is under the protection or in the custody of another
  8. a means of protection
    1. an internal ridge or bar in a lock that prevents an incorrectly cut key from turning
    2. a corresponding groove cut in a key
  9. a less common word for warden 1
  1. (tr) archaic to guard or protect
See also ward off
Derived Formswardless, adjective

Word Origin for ward

Old English weard protector; related to Old High German wart, Old Saxon ward, Old Norse vorthr. See guard


  1. Dame Barbara (Mary), Baroness Jackson. 1914–81, British economist, environmentalist, and writer. Her books include Spaceship Earth (1966)
  2. Mrs Humphry, married name of Mary Augusta Arnold. 1851–1920, English novelist. Her novels include Robert Elsmere (1888) and The Case of Richard Meynell (1911)
  3. Sir Joseph George. 1856–1930, New Zealand statesman; prime minister of New Zealand (1906–12; 1928–30)


  1. (forming adjectives) indicating direction towardsa backward step; heavenward progress
  2. (forming adverbs) a variant and the usual US and Canadian form of -wards

Word Origin for -ward

Old English -weard towards
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 ward

Old English weard "a guarding, a watchman, a sentry," from West Germanic *wardo (cf. Old Saxon ward, Old Norse vörðr, Old High German wart). Used for administrative districts (at first in the sense of guardianship) from late 14c.; of hospital divisions from 1749. Meaning "minor under control of a guardian" is from early 15c. Ward-heeler is 1890, from heeler "loafer, one on the lookout for shady work" (1870s).


Old English weardian "to keep guard," from Proto-Germanic *wardojan- (cf. Old Saxon wardon, Old Norse varða "to guard," Old Frisian wardia, Middle Dutch waerden "to take care of," Old High German warten "to guard, look out for, expect," German warten "to wait, wait on, nurse, tend"), from *wardo- (see ward (n.)). French garder, Italian guardare, Spanish guardar are Germanic loan-words. Meaning "to parry, to fend off" (now usually with off) is recorded from 1570s. Related: Warded; warding.


adverbial suffix expressing direction, Old English -weard "toward," literally "turned toward," sometimes -weardes, with genitive singular ending of neuter adjectives, from Proto-Germanic *warth (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian -ward, Old Norse -verðr), variant of PIE *wert- "to turn, wind," from root *wer- (3) "to turn, bend" (see versus). The original notion is of "turned toward."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

ward in Medicine


  1. A room in a hospital usually holding six or more patients.
  2. A division in a hospital for the care of a particular group of patients.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.