lanyards graphic ID Lanyards

First Things First
Where Did That Name Come From?

Let's face it: "lanyard" is a weird word. It's not quite as odd as balderdash or cockamamie, but it's right up there toward the top of the list. Where did this odd word come from, and how did we let it sneak into our language?

The credit belongs entirely to the Norman Conquerors (so named for their place of origin, the French territory of Normandy), who took over England after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Now, the modern French are a fine people, despite their fondness for snails and smelly cheese, but they really did a number on Merrie Olde England back in the Middle Ages. France and England had been squabbling since the days of the Franks and Angles, but things really got out of hand with the Battle of Hastings, when England's King Harold I took an arrow in the eye (ouch) and the Normans kicked the stuffing out of the Brits. The Normans then occupied the Isles for a few hundred years, and during that time French became the language of choice for lords, ladies, and anyone who wanted to get ahead. Before long, what had basically been an offshoot of German acquired a French overlay, and a whole bunch of new words to confuse future generations of schoolchildren. This became known as Middle English, and modern English evolved from there. This is the why English is an unusually rich language, compared to most others, and explains why there seems to be at least two words for everything. You can still recognize the old Germanic core words like "door" and "beat" because they're short, sweet, and to the point. It's the more complicated "Latinate" words like "portcullis" and "conquer" that derive from the old period of Norman occupation. "Lanyard" is one of those words, too.

Lanyard (a.k.a. "laniard") comes from the Middle English term "lainere," which simply means "strap." This same word, spelled the same way, meant the same thing in Old French (see? We can blame it on the Normans.), and probably derived ultimately from las, Old French for "string". The hard "d" on the end of "lanyard" is a later alteration from when the term was used for nautical purposes, and lanyards dangled from the yards or spars of sailing ship masts.

There's the long and short of it, and for a two-syllable word, that was a long explanation indeed. But at least you have all the information you need to understand the surprisingly complicated history of this term.


On to part two :: The Many Meanings of "Lanyard" :: Back to Index



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