It's pretty well known that Harvard University is named after John Harvard, who helped found it in the 1630s. But what does his name mean? In the past, variations such as Hovard, Hovart, Hereuuard, Heruart, and Hoovart were recorded, but to trace the etymology we need to go to the Old English surname hereweard, which literally meant "army guard", composed of the elements here, or "enemy army" (not related to the modern word), and weard, meaning "guardian" or "watchman". Here is from the Proto-Germanic word harjaz, which comes from Proto-Indo-European ker, still meaning "army". Weard, meanwhile, came from Proto-Germanic warona ("to protect") and ultimately derives from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction wer, which meant "to become aware of". So, depending on how far back you go, the word Harvard can mean "to become aware of armies" or "army guard".
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.