Hoard and Horde

Commonly Confused Words

gold miner
Hordes of treasure-seekers hoped to find hoards of gold. (Dieter Spears/Getty Images)

The words hoard and horde are homophones: they sound alike but have different meanings.

Definitions

The noun hoard refers to a supply of something that has been stored up and often hidden away. As a verb, hoard means to collect and store away or to keep something to oneself.

The noun horde means a crowd, throng, or swarm.

Examples

  • An unemployed man with a metal detector stumbled upon one of the greatest hoards of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever discovered in Britain.
     
  • "The arid plains and canyons of the southwest are normally bone-dry places where hands chap and lips crack and every beast and plant is fitted by genetics to hoard each drop of moisture."
    (David Von Drehle, "How Literature Can Make Sense of the Deadly Utah Flash Floods." Time, September 17, 2015)
     
  • Nintendo's new video game system has attracted hordes of casual gamers.
     
  • "It was a balmy summer Friday evening in 1992. The crowd resembled a horde of marching ants as they scurried about, focused on leaving the city. I was not one of them. I had a mission. It was to baby-sit the bright blue full-size replica of an animated train—insured for $100,000—based on Thomas the Tank Engine, as featured on a popular British children's television series."
    (Estelle Erasmus, "The Gas Goes out and the Train Goes in." The New York Times, August 20, 2016)
     


Usage Notes

  • "hoard, horde. These two words sound alike and can be confused. A hoard is a hidden fund or supply stored for future use; to hoard something is to gather or accumulate a hoard of it. The noun horde is used to refer to any large group, especially a crowd or swarm. There is no verb horde. Thus hoard is used primarily of things, while horde applies to people and other living things (such as insects). Only a horde of reporters should follow a movie star around, never a hoard. When large numbers of people are turning up in different places, the plural hordes is common: hordes of students returning to campus, hordes of volunteers helping to get out the vote."
    (Webster's New Essential Writer's Companion: A Concise Guide to Writing. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007)
  • "Curiously, the confusion seems to work only in one direction: there's no evidence of hordes being used where hoards might be expected. Webster's English Usage (1989) suggests that hoards is somehow the more familiar spelling, yet hordes is actually more frequent . . .. Hoard is perhaps more English-looking with its oa digraph, and it does in fact go back to Old English, whereas horde with its seemingly redundant e is a C16 loanword from Turkish via Polish. Whatever the incentives for using hoard for horde, it gets no support from major dictionaries."
    (Pam Peters, The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Cambridge University Press, 2004)

    Practice

    (a) A _____ of soldiers in green-gray uniforms gathered on the bridge.

    (b) The produce store allows farmers to safely _____ their produce until they can get good prices for their crops.

    Answers to Practice Exercises

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

    Answers to Practice Exercises: Hoard and Horde
     

    (a) A horde of soldiers in green-gray uniforms gathered on the bridge.

    (b) The produce store allows farmers to safely hoard their produce until they can get good prices for their crops.

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words