A yard is an area of land immediately adjacent to a building or a group of buildings. It may be either enclosed or open. The word comes from the same linguistic root as the word garden and has many of the same meanings.
A number of derived words exist, usually tied to a particular usage or building type. Some may be archaic or in lesser use now. Examples of such words are: courtyard, barnyard, hopyard, graveyard, churchyard, brickyard, prison yard, railyard, junkyard and stableyard.
The word "yard" came from the Anglo-Saxon geard, compare "garden" (German Garten), Old Norse garðr, Russian gorod = "town" (originally as an "enclosed fortified area"), Latin hortus = "garden" (hence horticulture and orchard), from Greek χορτος (hortos) = "farm-yard", "feeding-place", "fodder", (from which "hay" originally as grown in an enclosed field). "Girdle," and "court" are other related words from the same root.
In areas where farming is an important part of life, a yard is also a piece of enclosed land for farm animals or other agricultural purpose, often referred to as a cattleyard, sheepyard, stockyard, etc. In Australia portable or mobile yards are sets of transportable steel panels used to build temporary stockyards.
Application of the term
In North America and Australasia today, a yard can be any part of a property surrounding or associated with a house or other residential structure, usually (although not necessarily) separate from a garden (where plant maintenance is more formalized). A yard will typically consist mostly of lawn or play area. The yard in front of a house is referred to as a front yard, the area at the rear is known as a backyard. Backyards are generally more private and are thus a more common location for recreation. Yard size varies with population density. In urban centres, many houses have very small or even no yards at all. In the suburbs, yards are generally much larger and have room for such amenities as a patio, a playplace for children, or a swimming pool.
In British English, these areas would usually be described as a garden, similarly subdivided into a front garden and a back garden, although paved areas may be called a yard, but more usually a patio. In modern Britain, the term yard is often used for depots and land adjacent to or among workplace buildings, as well as uncultivated land adjoining a building.
In North America, the term "garden" refers only to the area that contains plots of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and/or ornamental plants; and the term "yard" does not refer to the "garden", although the flower garden or vegetable garden may be within the yard.