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Language Arts

Hoard vs Horde

Because neither "horde" nor "hoard" are commonly used, it's easy to confuse the spellings of these two homophones. This article defines both "horde" and "hoard," and will hopefully help you next time you ask yourself whether to use "horde" or "hoard."

The barbarian horde stashed their hoard of treasure in a cave hidden deep in the mountains. One of the reasons that even professional writers confuse horde and hoard (in May of 2008, the NY Times online ran an article referring to a “horde of cash”) - besides the fact that they are homophones and spelled very similarly - is the simple truth that neither of these words is frequently used. Because we do not use them often, we do not have a lot of incentive to keep the spelling and meaning of these words separate and clear in our minds. So this article will help distinguish them.


Hoard is a noun, as well as a transitive verb (one that takes an object) and an intransitive verb (one that functions without an object). As a noun, it can refer to a money or some other valuable cache (including information) saved up or put aside in a safe, possibly hidden, place for the future.

Ali Baba found out that he could enter the cave where the Forty Thieves kept their hoard if he said the words “Open, Sesame!”

As a verb, hoard can either related directly to the noun, meaning “to accumulate a hoard (of)” or refer more generally to keeping something hidden or secret.

Transitive verb: Albert was not afforded much privacy as a child, so he hoarded his secret thoughts in his journal.

Intransitive verb: I think it would be very difficult to have a raven as a pet, given that they are known to love bright, shiny objects and to hoard. . . .

Hoard is from the Middle English form hord and comes from Old English. It is related to the Gothic word huzd, meaning “treasure.” Hoard is pronounced /HORD/.


Horde is a noun with several distinct meanings. Horde refers specifically to nomadic Mongol tribes of the thirteenth century. These include the White Horde, the Blue Horde, the Golden Horde.These hordes were khanates (groups ruled by khans) that evolved after the death of Genghis Khan in about 1227. The Nogai Horde was somewhat different, being formed in the late fourteenth century by a group claiming that they were descended from the founder of the Golden Horde, and it formed a khanate in 1391, seceding from the Golden Horde at that time. Here is an example sentence:

The Nogai Horde eventually divided into three parts: the Great Nogai Horde, the Lesser Nogai Horde, and the Altiul Horde.

Horde can also be used by extension to refer to any nomadic tribe or group, as in this sentence:

Barbarian hordes, including Huns, Goths, and Visigoths, ravaged the Roman Empire in fourth and fifth centuries.

Horde is also used figuratively to refer to any group with a negative connotation, as in this example:

A horde of black flies descended upon the picnickers and temporarily put an end to the frivolity.

Horde, which came into English via the Polish word horda, ultimately goes back to the Old Turkic word ordu meaning “camp” or referring to the khan’s residence. Horde is pronounced identically to hoard: /HORD/.

Distinguishing Hoard and Horde

As with the pair discrete and discreet, you can use the vowel placement in hoard and horde to help remember which is which. Hoard keeps its a locked up tight inside the word, while the wild horde has its e free at the tail end of the word as it races off on another adventure.