Word of the Day


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(literary) a poet

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

Bard comes from the Gaelic and Irish word ‘bàrd’ which was derived from an Old Celtic word meaning ‘poet-singer’ or ‘minstrel‘. Originally used to refer to the ancient Celtic minstrel-poets whose job was to write and sing verses in praise of chiefs and warriors, in the 17th century its meaning was extended to refer to any poet. It was first used in English with the original meaning in the early part of the 16th century.


William Shakespeare, whose birthday is generally celebrated on 23rd April although his exact date of  birth is unknown, is sometimes referred to as the Bard of Avon. The river Avon gives its name to the town where Shakespeare was born in 1564 and where he is buried, Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare used the word bard in his plays, but it seems to have been first applied to him by the renowned actor David Garrick, who referred to him as ‘the bard of all bards‘ in a work published in 1785. The term Bard of Avon seems to have been used first in the late 19th century, but such is Shakepeare’s pre-eminence in English literature that he is sometimes referred to simply as The Bard.


“The appellation of a Scottish Bard is by far my highest pride; to continue to deserve it is my most exalted ambition.”
(Robert Burns)

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