What are swards?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: swards.

I read William Trevor’s 1994 novel Felicia’s Journey in a mad panic last November. I was desperate to hit my goal of 52 books before the end of the year and the time was running faster than my reading. Felicia’s Journey was short. Bonus!

Unexpectedly, it was also a great read, outside of my usual genre. The story of a psychopath and the young woman he lures into his world, the novel is the sort of work Alfred Hitchcock might have turned into a movie, had he still been alive.

The book also gave me my word of the week, swards. Here’s how Trevor used it:

Swards of crocuses bloom close to where he picnics. 

I hadn’t seen the word before but could assume he meant “fields” and he did. In fact, swards means land covered with grassy turf or a lawn or meadow. Originating in 1300  the word comes from the Old English sweard meaning “skin, hide, rind” (of bacon, etc.), from the Middle Dutch swarde and the Dutch zwoord, both meaning “rind of bacon”  and the  German schwarte meaning “thick, hard skin, rind.”

The meaning of “sod,” or ” turf” developed from the notion of dirt being the “skin” of the earth. 

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