Heard and Herd

Commonly Confused Words

herd of buffalo
We heard the herd of buffalo being herded home. (Manoj Shah/Getty Images)

The words heard and herd are homophones: they sound alike but have different meanings.

Definitions

Heard is the past form of the verb to hear (to perceive sound or listen).

The noun herd refers to a large group of animals or people. As a verb, herd means to gather into a group or to move as a group.

Examples

  • "If you've heard this story before, don't stop me, because I'd like to hear it again."
    (Groucho Marx)
     
  • "I heard the thunder of running feet and the clashing horns,  and I looked to see where the noise was coming from and saw the herd coming. I was directly in its path."
    (W.E. Oglesby quoted by Jim Lanning and Judy Lanning in Texas Cowboys: Memories of the Early Days. Texas A&M University Press, 1984)
     
  • The teacher proceeded to herd the children out of the classroom.
     

Idiom Alerts

  • Heard It Through the Grapevine
    The expression hear or heard it through the grapevine means to find out about something through gossip or rumor.
    "I heard it through the grapevine that you're being promoted. Is that true?"
     
  • Never Heard of Such a Thing
    Never heard of such a thing is an expression of disbelief or amazement.
    "'I have to paint this speed trap—on the orders of the governor, ma'am.'

    "Ginny had never heard of such a thing and was instantly inflamed. There were fewer than twenty gas-powered land vehicles on the entire island, most of them rusting pickup trucks used for hauling things. Pretty much everybody either walked or got around on golf carts, scooters, mopeds, or bicycles."
    (Patricia Cornwell, Isle of Dogs. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2001)
     
  • Could Have Heard a Pin Drop
    The cliché could have heard a pin drop means extremely quiet, usually because people are very interested in something that has just been said or done.
    "You could have heard a pin drop in the locker room as he spoke of Raiders football, of the responsibility we had to the coaches, and the proud team tradition we weren't living up to."
    (Marcus Allen with Carlton Stowers,Marcus: The Autobiography of Marcus Allen. St. Martin's press, 1997)
     
  • Ride Herd
    The metaphorical expression to ride herd (on somebody or something) means to maintain firm control or keep close watch (often over a process or a group of people).
    "Unlike the White House, Number 10 Downing Street is not filled with special assistants, special advisors, counselors, committees, and offices designed to ride herd on the bureaucracy. Why the difference? In a word, the answer is the Constitution."
    (James Q. Wilson, Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It. Basic Books, 2000) 
     


Practice
(a) The police tried to _____ the protesters away from the square.

(b) "Under the drone of rain she _____ the slosh of feet in mud."
(Richard Wright, "Bright and Morning Star." New Masses, 1939)

(c) By the time we caught up to the grazing _____, the cattle were within a mile of the river.

Answers to Practice Exercises

(a) The police tried to herd the protesters away from the square.

(b) "Under the drone of rain ​she heard the slosh of feet in mud."
(Richard Wright, "Bright and Morning Star." New Masses, 1939) 

(c) By the time we caught up to the grazing herd, the cattle were within a mile of the river.