The obscure word of the week is byre

This week’s obscure English word is byre.

It means a building housing cows and is derived from the Old English word meaning cowshed.

Your challenge: write a sentence or two in the comments using this word.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2019

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5 thoughts on “The obscure word of the week is byre

  1. Well, I suppose “Were you born in a byre?” could be a variant on the usual question to people with muddy feet coming into the house. I was actually acquainted with this word from an early age, as may be anyone who’s read Kipling’s Jungle Books. It appears in the verse that opens the first chapter: “The herds are shut in byre and hut, / For loosed till dawn are we.”

    1. It’s a great word and definitely has poetic overtones these days – Kipling, inevitably, was going to use it! As an aside, I sometimes wonder whether the common English of the early modern period has gained that of late through the slightly rose-tinted lens through which life then is sometimes seen (pre-industrial, somehow simpler…)

        1. Definitely. I recall trying A Clockwork Orange and finding it essentially unreadable because Burgess used so much ‘Nadsat’ in it, and it wasn’t always possible to figure out the context (actually, I still haven’t read that one). True of sixteenth century words too – though it was a glorious time for English… I mean, if Shakespeare didn’t have a word for something, he’d make one up. ‘Bandit’, I think, is one of them.

  2. Every time you have an obscure word, I do try my best to pronounce it and use it. But I don’t understand how this byre came from cowshed – am I really mis-pronouncing it?

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