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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English shard, scherd, scheard, schord, from Old English sċeard (a broken piece; shard), from Proto-West Germanic *skard, from Proto-Germanic *skardą (notch; nick), from *skardaz (damaged; nicked; scarred), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)ker- (to cut). Akin to Scots schaird (shard), French écharde (splinter), Dutch schaarde (tear; notch; fragment), German Scharte (notch), Old Norse skarð (notch, hack) ( > Danish skår).

The database sense is perhaps derived from the online gaming sense[1] or from SHARD (System for Highly Available Replicated Data), name of a 1980s database product.

Alternative forms[edit]


shard (plural shards)

  1. A piece of broken glass or pottery, especially one found in an archaeological dig.
    Synonym: potsherd
    • 2012, Andrew Martin, Underground Overground: A passenger's history of the Tube, Profile Books, →ISBN, page 29:
      You know there is something fascinating beyond that wall because someone's tried to stop you seeing over, and there are shards of glass embedded in the top.
  2. (by extension) A piece of material, especially rock and similar materials, reminding of a broken piece of glass or pottery.
    Synonym: splinter
    • 2014, Paul Salopek, Blessed. Cursed. Claimed., National Geographic (December 2014)[2]
      Inside its exhibit hall, behind panes of glass, in a white-lit lab, a team of restorers works on an ancient Byzantine floor: 44 square yards of stone shards rescued from Lot’s Cave Monastery.
  3. A tough scale, sheath, or shell; especially an elytron of a beetle.
  4. (online gaming) An instance of an MMORPG that is one of several independent and structurally identical virtual worlds, none of which has so many players as to exhaust a system's resources.
    • 1997, Ultima Online. The term "shard" is related to the backstory of the game, in which the Gem of Immortality is shattered by the Stranger, the protagonist of Ultima I.
      "The planet was still bound to the jewel's magic, even as it lay shattered upon the floor of Mondain's castle. For,[sic] within each shattered remnant of the jewel, dwelled a perfect likeness of Sosaria. Thus is the world in which you are born, live, and die. Brittania[sic], that was once Sosaria, now exists as a thousand worlds, each with its own peoples, history and destiny. This Brittania[sic] is but one of many in the multiverse that is... ...ULTIMA ONLINE." - Intro cinematic to the game, written by Michael Morlan [3]
  5. (databases) A component of a sharded distributed database.
    Synonym: partition
  6. (slang, in the singular or in the plural) A piece of crystal methamphetamine.
Derived terms[edit]


shard (third-person singular simple present shards, present participle sharding, simple past and past participle sharded)

  1. (intransitive) To fall apart into shards, usually as the result of impact or explosion.
  2. (transitive) To break (something) into shards.
  3. (online gaming, transitive) To divide (an MMORPG) into several shards, or to establish a shard of one.


  1. ^ Raph Koster (2009-01-18), “Database “sharding” came from UO?”, in Raph Koster's Website[1]: “So, did this database term come from a doc that I dashed off one afternoon in 1996? Umm… I am not sure. Seems like an interesting coincidence, if not.”
  • (pottery) Shard, in the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, 1974 edition.

Etymology 2[edit]


shard (uncountable)

  1. The plant chard.
    • 1684, John Dryden, “From Horace, Epode 2”, in The Second Part of Miscellany Poems[4], 4th edition, London: Jacob Tonson, page 79:
      Not Heathpout, or the rarer Bird,
      Which Phasis, or Ionia yields,
      More pleasing Morsels would afford
      Than the fat Olives of my Fields;
      Than Shards or Mallows for the Pot,
      That keep the loosen’d Body sound,
      Or than the Lamb that falls by Lot,
      To the just Guardian of my Ground.


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of scherd