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This entry in early editions of Merriam-Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition (NI2) is defined as "density". This is the result of a note card that was intended to read "D. or d.", that is, that a capital or lower case d could be an abbreviation for density. Somehow it got misinterpreted as a word "dord", and somebody added the only conceivable pronunciation (rhymes with "board"), and eventually it made it into the dictionary in 1933. It survived into the next revision of the dictionary in 1939, but was removed from subsequent revisions. I have seen claims that "dord" editions are very rare and sell for up to $1000, but all evidence is to the contrary; about 10 years of its about 30 year print run were produced with the error, and while I've seen a couple examples on sale for such prices, I know of no actual sales of the dictionary much above $100, and many below.

Go back to Fake words and broken definitions in dictionaries.

A type of horn, played in ancient Ireland, and dating as far back as the Bronze Age, notable for having the most ridiculous name of any instrument. The dord is or was made of bronze (technically making it, I assume, a brasswind instrument), semicircular in shape, widening evenly throughout its length, and its mouth has a plain or dish-shaped rim; it is notably very large, with the largest preserved specimen measuring more than two meters in length. In many ways it resembles the Bronze Age Norse lur (which, actually, just means »horn« in Old Norse, and still means the same thing in contemporary Swedish), but the typical lur is very clearly twisted so as to wind around half of the upper body, whereas the dord is not. Whether the dord was held in front of the player, so that the mouth faced backwards, or was slung under the arm, with the mouth facing upward and forward, is not clear to me; I feel like I've seen depictions of both in period artwork, but that was a long time ago, and the internet is remarkably sparse in pictures of Bronze Age artifacts with dord players depicted on them — no doubt this is a mere administrative error, or possibly caused by extreme download pressure on the host sites making them crash.

Of course, no living tradition of dord playing has existed for at least a millennium, and perhaps two, but my earlier remark notwithstanding, the word dord means »hum« or »drone« in Old Irish, from which we may reasonably conclude what it sounded like when played.


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