“Hoard” vs. “Horde”: Do You Know The Difference?

Are you staring at piles and piles of junk and becoming increasingly concerned about the accumulation in, uh, someone‘s apartment? No judgment if you’re asking for “a friend”! We’re here to help you use the right words to describe this problem.

To properly examine the issue, we’ve got to get the vocabulary pinned down: does this chaos signal a problem with hoarding? Or the tendency to horde instead of getting rid of unnecessary things?

Some people may not want to admit it, but the answer is hoard. If you’re having trouble accepting this term, you might be a hoarder, or a person who has accumulated things for the future that they don’t need right now.

Hordeas a verb or nounis only correct when used to discuss a big group of people or animals who can gather. Read on to learn more of the nuances between these terms.

What does hoard mean?

If you’re one of those people stocking up on months’ worth of toilet paper or canned food, then hoard applies to you. Defined as an “accumulation that is hidden or carefully guarded for preservation, future use,” this noun refers to a large supply of something. For example: The archeologist discovered the king’s hoard of gold coins.

As a verb, hoard means “to accumulate for preservation, future use, etc., in a hidden or carefully guarded place.” An example of this: People tend to hoard milk and bread when the weather forecast calls for a snowstorm.

This word can also mean to keep your thoughts or intentions a secret. It’s possible to use the word hoard figuratively, though this is more of an old-fashioned use: There’s no point hoarding love in the heart; it’s meant to be given freely. So what you hoard doesn’t have to be large if the object is something prized that you’re trying to keep for yourself.

Hoard originated before 900 from the Old English hord.

What does horde mean?

Horde is similar to hoard in that it refers to an amount: “a large group, multitude, number.” Think flock of birds, a pack of wolves, or hungry beasts. This noun can also mean “a mass or crowd,” like the hordes of people waiting in line at Target for it to open or the tourists gawking at the Mona Lisa.

Its original sense, however, refers to “a tribe of Asian nomads or any nomadic group in general.” The word is derived from the Turkish ordā and ordū, for “royal residence” or “camp,” and later, “any military encampment, army.”

Horde can function as a verb that is used without a direct object to describe how a group, multitude, or number gathers: The lions horde together near the stream. Clearly, the lions “gather” together; they are not hoarding sanitizer.

How to use horde vs. hoard

To summarize: to hoard refers to accumulating items, while to horde is to gather as a group.

If you associate horde with people and animals, you’re on the right track. If you’re describing a swarm of people or animals, the right word is horde.

So although an organized person’s biggest fear might be living with a partner’s hoarding problem, their nightmare may actually be a horde of spiders attacking them.

Those who are couponing champions and stockpile everyday essentials might consider donating some of their hoard to those in need. But if you aren’t a people person, you might want to avoid the hordes of strangers that hit the stores and form endless lines on Black Friday.

Growing up, your grandma may have hoarded all of the chocolate in the house because she didn’t want to share. Even if she thought she was sneaky, she failed at hoarding her intentions—we all knew exactly what she was doing!

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If you do encounter a horde of farm animals, be wary of their smell … would you say they are “reeking” or “wreaking”? Read more abut the two words here.

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