Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Shard

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is shard. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Shard refers to “a small piece or part” of something, and is often used as a synonym of scrap.

// A single shard of sunlight pierced the dense forest canopy, illuminating the entrance to the ancient ruin.

SHARD in Context

“The hunter struck his weapon to sharpen its edge in anticipation. In that moment, two glassy flakes splintered away from the point of impact and fell to his feet. They would be buried there for nearly 10,000 years. In 2013 those two shards of obsidian, a natural volcanic glass, would be recovered from a sample of earth, roughly the volume of a quart of milk, that was pulled from the bottom of Lake Huron, under 100 feet of water.” — Aaron Martin, Scientific American, 1 June 2021

Did You Know?

Shard dates back to Old English (where it was spelled sceard) and is related to Old English scieran, meaning “to cut.” English speakers have adopted the modernized shard spelling for most uses, but archaeologists prefer to spell the word sherd when referring to the ancient fragments of pottery (sometimes referred to specifically as potsherds) they unearth. While shard initially referred to exactly such items, today the word is also used more broadly to encompass slivers of intangible concepts. A baseless accusation may be made “without a shard of evidence,” and fans of the losing team may “cling to a shard of hope” until the final score. The utility of shard is its, ahem, point.

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