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The Etymology of Farrier and Related Words

This was not my plan for this week’s post.

I had intended to dazzle you with the etymology (ie, a study on the origin and history of words) of a few select horse words but instead fell down the farrier rabbit hole. Which, to be fair, I’m pleased about, because none of these words, other than farrier, were on my list.

It astounds me, having written over 100 of these charming posts, that I’m still able to unearth interesting (at least to me) subject matter. That’s how influential horses were and still are. 


We all know what a farrier is, so I shan’t go on about that, but I have always wondered why the word farrier as opposed to something entirely different.

The word farrier has been in use since the 1500s and comes from the French word ferrier, which comes from the Latin word ferrarius, meaning blacksmith, which comes from ferrum, meaning iron.

Now, if you turn to your Periodic Table of Elements, you will find that the symbol for iron is Fe, which works rather nicely with the French and Latin spelling. Why we switched the ‘E’ for an ‘A’ is another matter altogether, but at least now we know why we use the word farrier, as opposed to something entirely different.


Having leapt the farrier hurdle so easily I was curious about the word blacksmith. Why the color black? A blacksmith works with heated, heavy metals that apparently turn you and your outfit black. I made that last part up, but it’s kind of true.

When learning about the blacksmith I also learned about the whitesmith. I had no idea that was even a thing but apparently it is and a whitesmith is someone that works with softer metals such as gold, tin or pewter. I suspect you could get away with wearing white to work and remain relatively clean throughout the day. 

The term blacksmith has been around since the 1400s. But as a surname, it has been going strong since the 1200s.


And speaking of surnames, let’s tackle this one. Smith is a common last name and for good reason. It stems from the Middle English name smithen, which comes from Old English smiðian, which means to forge, fabricate and design stuff from metal.

If, by chance, someone back in the old days asked what you did for a living you could have said, “I own a smithery,” and no one would have laughed at such a fabulous word. And where would you do your metalwork? In the smithy, of course. I had always assumed “smithy” was a term of endearment for a blacksmith. I was wrong, as per.


Whilst learning about the above-mentioned terms I came across the word spurrier. What a great word! Imagine telling someone that you are a spurrier. Most spurs today are made by machines, except the super fancy Western spurs.

Anyway, this word derives from the Middle English word sporiorie, which of course means “the craft of spur-making.”

As a noun, the word spur comes from the Old English word spora/spura, which meant, and I’m intentionally using past tense here, “A spiked metal implement worn on the heel to goad a horse.”

Even though spurs are prevalent in the horse industry, I would like to think the act of goading a horse with a spiked metal implement is a thing of the past.


A lorimer is someone who makes bits and pieces for saddles and bridles. Not actual bits that you put in a horse’s mouth, but rather the small “ironware” such as buckles and rings that are put on saddles and bridles.

As a last name, the word has been around since the 1100s and as a regular noun the word comes from the Old French word lorimier, all of which stems from the Latin word lorum, which meant “strap and/or rein of a bridle,” which has nothing to do with small ironware, but it’s close enough.

And there we have it

I’m thankful to have fallen down yet another educational rabbit hole because I have emerged all the wiser for it. I’m also pleased I can stop thinking about the word farrier.


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