Get our exclusive Word of the Day images!
mid-15c., from Scottish, from Old Celtic bardos "poet, singer," from PIE root *gwer- "to lift up the voice, praise." In historical times, a term of contempt among the Scots (who considered them itinerant troublemakers), but one of great respect among the Welsh.
All vagabundis, fulis, bardis, scudlaris, and siclike idill pepill, sall be brint on the cheek. [local Scottish ordinance, c.1500]Subsequently idealized by Scott in the more ancient sense of "lyric poet, singer." Poetic use of the word in English is from Greek bardos, Latin bardus, both from Gaulish.
surname recorded from 1248; it means "a spearman." This was a common type of English surname, e.g. Shakelance (1275), Shakeshaft (1332). Shake (v.) in the sense of "to brandish or flourish (a weapon)" is attested from late Old English
Heo scæken on heore honden speren swiðe stronge. [Laymon, "Brut," c. 1205]Cf. also shake-buckler "a swaggerer, a bully;" shake-rag "ragged fellow, tatterdemalion." "Never a name in English nomenclature so simple or so certain in origin. It is exactly what it looks -- Shakespear" [Bardsley, "Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames," 1901]. Nevertheless, speculation flourishes. The name was variously written in contemporary records, also Shakespear, Shakespere, the last form being the one adopted by the New Shakespere Society of London and the first edition of the OED. Related: Shakespearian (1753); Shakesperean (1796); Shakesperian (1755).