General English


  • A baffle in a lock to prevent use of an unauthorized key.


  • noun a division of a town or city for administrative purposes
  • noun a minor protected by a court
  • verb to make a child a ward

Origin & History of “ward”

Ward and guard are ultimately the same word. both go back to a prehistoric west Germanic *wartho ‘watching over’. But whereas guard reached English via Old French, ward is a lineal descendant of the Germanic word. The noun originally meant ‘watching, guarding’; its application to an individual room of an institution where people are guarded or looked after (at first including prisons as well as hospitals) dates from the 16th century. The verb ward (now mainly encountered in ward off) comes from the Germanic derivative *warthōjan. The early sense ‘guardianship, custody’ is preserved in such expressions as ward of court, and also in warden (13th c.) (from the Old Northern French derivative wardein, corresponding to the central French form guardien ‘guardian’) and warder (14th c.), from Anglo-Norman wardere. The word’s ultimate source is the base *war- ‘watch, be on one’s guard, take care’ (source also of English aware, beware, warn, wary, etc).