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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

May I hang up your plane?

A Wordlady reader has asked about the origins of the word hangar. That's the place for storing planes, not to be confused with the hanger on which you hang your clothes. Surprisingly, hangar comes from French (it certainly doesn't look like a French word). The word ultimately derives from two Frankish words, haim and gard. Haim meant "village", and the Anglo-Saxon relative of this word, ham, turns up in "hamlet" (the small town, not the moody prince) and also in many English place names, "Birmingham", for instance. Gard meant "enclosure" and is also the source for our word "garden". So a haimgard was an enclosure attached to a house, and then a shed for storing farm equipment and other large items. When planes were invented, the word was adapted for a new need. In the early days of flying, English borrowed quite a few French aviation words (aileron, fuselage, and even aeroplane are other examples)and thus hangar was adopted for the "aircraft garage".


  1. Hello,

    "Gard" is the Romanian word for "fence"; now that I think of "fencing" and "guarding", I wonder if there is a connection ...

    I also wonder about a possible connection between "haim" and the German "Heimat". It even reminded me of Chaim Herzog ...



About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.