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A gord is a medieval Slavonic fortified settlement, usually built on strategic sites such as hilltops, riverbanks, lake islets or peninsulas between the 6th and 12th centuries in Central and Eastern Europe. A typical gord consisted of a group of wooden houses surrounded by a wall made of earth and wood, and a palisade running along the top of the bulwark.


Section of a reconstructed hilltop gród at the village of Birów near Ogrodzieniec, Poland
Reconstructed West Slavic fortified settlement (gord) in Groß Raden, Germany
Towns and villages in Poland with names derived from gród (magenta circles)
A cross section of early Slavic gród bulwarks and wharf in Gdańsk, Poland

The term ultimately descends from the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European root ǵʰortós 'enclosure'. The Proto-Slavic word *gordъ later differentiated into grad (Cyrillic: град), gorod (Cyrillic: город), gród in Polish, gard in Kashubian, etc.[1][2][3] It is the root of various words in modern Slavic languages pertaining to fences and fenced-in areas (Belarusian гарадзіць, Ukrainian horodyty, Slovak ohradiť, Czech ohradit, Russian ogradit, Serbo-Croatian ograditi, and Polish ogradzać, grodzić, to fence off). It also has evolved into words for a garden in certain languages.

Additionally, it has furnished numerous modern Slavic words for a city or town:

The names of many Central and Eastern European cities harken back to their pasts as gords. Some of them are in countries which once were but no longer are mainly inhabited by Slavic-speaking peoples.

Examples include:

The words in Polish and Slovak for suburbium, podgrodzie and podhradie correspondingly, literally mean a settlement beneath a gord: the gród/hrad was frequently built at the top of a hill, and the podgrodzie/podhradie at its foot. (The Slavic prefix pod-, meaning "under/below" and descending from the Proto-Indo-European root pṓds, meaning foot, being equivalent to Latin sub-). The word survives in the names of several villages (Podgrodzie, Subcarpathian Voivodeship) and town districts (e.g., that of Olsztyn), as well as in the names of the German municipalities Puttgarden, Wagria and Putgarten, Rügen.

From this same Proto-Indo-European root come the Germanic word elements *gard and *gart (as in Stuttgart), and likely also the names of Graz, Austria and Gartz, Germany. Cognate to these are English words such as garden, yard, garth, girdle and court.[4][5] Also cognate but less closely related are Latin hortus, a garden, and its English descendant horticulture. In Hungarian, kert, the word for a garden, literally means encircled. Because Hungarian is a Uralic rather than an Indo-European language, this is likely a loanword. Further afield, in ancient Iran, a fortified wooden settlement was called a gerd, or certa, which also means garden (as in the suffix -certa in the names of various ancient Iranian cities; e.g., Hunoracerta). The Persian word evolved into jerd under later Arab influence. Burugerd or Borujerd is a city in the west of Iran. The Indian suffix -garh, meaning a fort in Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit, and other Indo-Iranian languages, appears in many Indian place names.[6] Given that both Slavic and Indo-Iranian are sub-branches of Indo-European and that there are numerous similarities between Slavic and Sanskrit vocabulary, it is plausible that garh and gord are related. However, this is strongly contradicted by the phoneme /g/ in Indo-Iranian, which cannot be a reflex of the Indo-European palatovelar /*ǵ/.[7]


A typical gord was a group of wooden houses built either in rows or in circles, surrounded by one or more rings of walls made of earth and wood, a palisade, and/or moats. Some gords were ring-shaped, with a round, oval, or occasionally polygonal fence or wall surrounding a hollow. Others, built on a natural hill or a man-made mound, were cone-shaped. Those with a natural defense on one side, such as a river or lake, were usually horseshoe-shaped. Most gords were built in densely populated areas on sites that offered particular natural advantages.

As Slavic tribes united to form states, gords were also built for defensive purposes in less-populated border areas. Gords in which rulers resided or that lay on trade routes quickly expanded. Near the gord, or below it in elevation, there formed small communities of servants, merchants, artisans, and others who served the higher-ranked inhabitants of the gord. Each such community was known as a suburbium (Polish: podgrodzie). Its residents could shelter within the walls of the gord in the event of danger. Eventually the suburbium acquired its own fence or wall. In the High Middle Ages, the gord usually evolved into a castle, citadel or kremlin, and the suburbium into a town.

Some gords did not stand the test of time and were abandoned or destroyed, gradually turning into more or less discernible mounds or rings of earth (Russian gorodishche, Polish gród or grodzisko, Ukrainian horodyshche, Slovak hradisko, Czech hradiště, German Hradisch, Hungarian hradis and Serbian gradiška/градишка). Notable archeological sites include Groß Raden in Germany and Biskupin in Poland.

Important gords in Central and Eastern Europe


Czech Republic







Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania






See also


  1. ^ Taylor, Isaac (1898). Names and Their Histories: A Handbook of Historical Geography and Topographical Nomenclature. Original from the University of Michigan: Rivingtons. p. 331. wall Grad gorod.
  2. ^ Taylor, Isaac (1864). Words and Places, Or, Etymological Illustrations of History, Ethnology, and Geography. Original from Oxford University: Macmillan. p. 128. wall Grad gorod.
  3. ^ Anthropologische Gesellschaft in Wien (1880). Mittheilungen der anthropologischen Gesellschaft in Wien. Original from the University of Michigan: F. Berger & Söhne. p. 40. Gord wall Grad gorod.
  4. ^ ON. garðr; goth. gards; den. -gaard; island. -gard; cimb. -garthur; aleman. -gardo; welsh. -gardd; holln. -gaerde; span. -gardin; pomern. -gard; slav. -grod, -hrad
  5. ^ A Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. Oxford. 1911; Jane Chance. "Tolkien and the invention of myth". 70
  6. ^ "Urban vocabulary in Northern India – City Words WP No. 4". Retrieved 2016-05-09.
  7. ^ "Sanskrit and Russian: Ancient kinship". Russia Beyond. Retrieved 2016-05-09.