O.E. gyrdan "to gird," Skt. ghra- "house," Alb. garth "hedge," L. hortus "garden," Phrygian -gordum "town," Gk. khortos "pasture," O.Ir. gort "field," Bret. garz "enclosure, garden," and second element in L. cohors "enclosure, yard, company of soldiers, multitude"). Lith. gardas "pen, enclosure," O.C.S. gradu "town, city," and Rus. gorod, -grad "town, city" belong to this group, but linguists dispute whether they are independent developments or borrowings from Gmc. Yard sale is attested by 1976. M.E. yerd "yard-land" (mid-15c.) was a measure of about 30 acres. Yardbird "convict" is 1956, from the notion of prison yards; earlier it meant "basic trainee" (World War II armed forces slang).
"measure of length," O.E. gerd (Mercian), gierd (W.Saxon) "rod, stick, measure of length," from W.Gmc. *gazdijo, from P.Gmc. *gazdaz "stick, rod" (cf. O.S. gerda, O.Fris. ierde, Du. gard "rod;" O.H.G. garta, Ger. gerte "switch, twig," O.N. gaddr "spike, sting, nail"), from PIE *gherdh- "staff, pole"
(cf. L. hasta "shaft, staff"). In O.E. it was originally a land measure of roughly 5 meters (a length later called rod, pole or perch). Modern measure of "three feet" is attested from late 14c. (earlier rough equivalent was the ell of 45 inches, and the verge). In M.E., the word also was a euphemism for "penis" (cf. "Love's Labour's Lost," V.ii.676). Slang meaning "one hundred dollars" first attested 1926, Amer.Eng. Yardstick is 1816. The nautical yard-arm (1550s) retains the original sense of "stick." In 19c. British naval custom, it was permissible to begin drinking when the sun was over the yard-arm.
whole nine yards
1960s, originally U.S. military slang, of unknown origin; perhaps from concrete mixer trucks, which were said to have dispensed in this amount. Or the yard may be in the slang sense of "one hundred dollars." Several similar phrases meaning "Everything" arose in the 1940s (whole ball of wax, which is
likewise of obscure origin, whole schmear); older examples include whole hog (see hog
) and whole shooting match (1896) whole shebang (1895).