AskDefine | Define shepherd

Dictionary Definition



1 a clergyman who watches over a group of people
2 a herder of sheep (on an open range); someone who keeps the sheep together in a flock [syn: sheepherder, sheepman]


1 watch over like a shepherd, as a teacher of her pupils
2 tend as a shepherd, as of sheep or goats

User Contributed Dictionary



From sceaphierde, a compound of sceap and hierde.



  1. A person who tends sheep.
  2. In the context of "metaphorical": Someone who watches over, looks after, or guides somebody.
    • Quotations
    The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; -- The Bible, Psalms 23:1



a person who tends sheep
someone who watches over or guides


  1. To watch over; to guide
  2. For a player to obstruct an opponent from getting to the ball, either when a teammate has it or is going for it, or if the ball is about to bounce through the goal or out of bounds.


watch over; guide
  • Finnish: paimentaa, kaitsea
in Australian rules football

Extensive Definition

A shepherd is a person who tends to, feeds, or guards sheep, especially in flocks. The word may also refer to one who provides religious guidance, as a pastor.


Shepherding is one of the oldest professions, beginning some 6,000 years ago in Asia Minor. Sheep were kept for their milk, meat, and especially their wool. Over the next millennia sheep and shepherding spread throughout Eurasia.
Some sheep were integrated in the family farm along with other animals such as pigs and chickens. To maintain a large herd, however, the sheep must be able to move from pasture to pasture, this required the development of a profession separate from that of the farmer. The duty of shepherds was to keep their flock intact and protect it from wolves and other predators. The shepherd was also to supervise the migration of the flock and ensured they made it to market areas in time for shearing. In ancient times shepherds also commonly milked their sheep, and made cheese from this milk; only some shepherds still do this today.
In many societies shepherds were an important part of the economy. Unlike farmers, shepherds were often wage earners, being paid to watch the sheep of others. Shepherds also lived apart from society, being largely nomadic. It was mainly a job of solitary males without children, and new shepherds thus needed to be recruited externally. Shepherds were most often the younger sons of farming peasants who did not inherit any land. Still in other societies, each family would have a family member to shepherd its flock, often a child, youth or an elderly who couldn't help much with harder work; these shepherds were fully integrated in society.
Shepherds would normally work in groups either looking after one large flock, or each bringing their own and merging their responsibilities. They would live in small cabins, often shared with their sheep and would buy food from local communities. Less often shepherds lived in covered wagons that traveled with their flocks.
Shepherding developed only in certain areas. In the lowlands and river valleys, it was far more efficient to grow grains and cereals than to allow sheep to graze, thus the raising of sheep was confined to rugged and mountainous areas. In the pre-modern times shepherding was thus centred on regions such as the Land of Israel, Greece, the Pyrenees, the Carpathian Mountains, and Scotland.

The shepherd's work in modern times

In modern times shepherding has changed dramatically. The abolition of common lands in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth century moved shepherding from independent nomads to employees of massive estates. European expansion spread sheep around the world, and shepherding became especially important in Australia and New Zealand where flocks of 4000, or more, were tended by one person. While originally shepherding in those countries was done on unfenced land, many shepherds left to try their luck on the goldfields. Shepherds are no longer used in Australia and New Zealand. Some families in Africa and Asia have their wealth in sheep, so a young son is sent out to guard them while the rest of the family tend to other chores.
Wages are higher than was the case in the past. Keeping a shepherd in constant attendance can be costly. Also, the eradication of sheep predators in parts of the world have lessened the need for shepherds. In countries like Britain hardy breeds of sheep are frequently left alone without a shepherd for long periods of time. More productive breeds of sheep can be left in fields and moved periodically to fresh pasture when necessary. Hardier breeds of sheep can be left on hillsides. The sheep farmer will attend to the sheep when necessary at times like lambing or shearing.

Shepherds in religion

Metaphorically, the term is used for God, especially in the Judeo-Christian tradition (e.g. Psalm 23), and in Christianity especially Jesus, who is called Good Shepherd. The Ancient Israelites were a pastoral people and there were many shepherds among them. It may also be worth noting that many Biblical heroes were shepherds, among them the Old Testament prophet Amos, who was a shepherd in the rugged area around Tekoa, as well as the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, the twelve tribes, the prophet Moses, and King David. In the New Testament angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds.
The same metaphor is also applied to priests, with Roman Catholic and Church of England bishops having the shepherd's crook among their insignia (see also Lycidas). In both cases, the implication is that the faithful are the "flock" who have to be tended. This is in part inspired by Jesus's injunctions to Peter, "Feed my sheep," which is the source of the pastoral image in Lycidas.
The Great Shepherd is one of the thrusts of Biblical scripture. This illustration encompasses many ideas, including God's care for his people, His discipline to correct the wandering sheep, as well as the tendency of humans to put themselves into danger's way and their inability to guide and take care of themselves apart from the direct power and leading of God.
Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, prided himself in being part of a rich tradition of prophets who found their means of livelihood as being shepherds.
Lord Krishna was also a Shepherd.

Shepherd in popular culture

The shepherd, with other such figures as the goatherd, is the inhabitant of idealized Arcadia, which is an idyllic and natural countryside. These works are, indeed, called pastoral, after the term for herding. The first surviving instances are the Idylls of Theocritus, and the Eclogues of Virgil, both of which inspired many imitators such as Edmund Spenser's The Shepheardes Calender. The shepherds of the pastoral are often heavily conventional and bear little relation to the actual work of shepherds.
Shepherds and shepherdesses have been frequently immortalised in art and sculpture. Among the best known is the neoclassical Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen's Shepherd Boy with Dog.
The shepherd, in such works, appears as a virtuous soul because of his living close to nature, uncorrupted by the temptations of the city. So Edmund Spenser writes in his Colin Clouts Come home againe of a shepherd who went to the city, saw its wickedness, and returned home wiser, and in The Faerie Queen makes the shepherds the only people to whom the Blatant Beast is unknown.
Many tales involving foundlings portray them being rescued by shepherds: Oedipus, Romulus and Remus, the title characters of Longus's Daphnis and Chloe, and The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare. These characters are often of much higher social status than the characters who save and raise them, the shepherds themselves being secondary characters. Similarly, the heroes and heroines of fairy tales written by the précieuses often appeared as shepherds and shepherdesses in pastoral settings, but these figures were royal or noble, and their simple setting does not cloud their innate nobility. In Hans Christian Andersen's "The Shepherdess and the Sweep" (1845), the porcelain shepherdess carries a gilt crook and wears shoes of gilt as well. Her lover is a porcelain chimney sweep with a princely face "as fair and rosy as a girl's", completely unsmudged with soot.
The Shepherd by Frederick Forsyth is the story of a flight from Germany to England undertaken by a young Vampire pilot one Christmas Eve.

Shepherd communities

The Tirthap community which is basically found in the north Maharashtra (Khandesh), i.e. Dhule, Jalgaon are also Dhangars they are said to originated from the Ahirs of Northern India. Shepherds are found in the name of Kurubas in South India mainly in Karnataka
shepherd in Danish: Hyrde
shepherd in German: Hirte
shepherd in Esperanto: Ŝafisto
shepherd in Spanish: Pastor
shepherd in Basque: Artzaintza
shepherd in Persian: چوپانی
shepherd in French: Berger
shepherd in Indonesian: Gembala
shepherd in Italian: Pastore
shepherd in Hebrew: רועה צאן
shepherd in Latin: Opilio
shepherd in Dutch: Herder
shepherd in Occitan (post 1500): Pastre
shepherd in Finnish: Paimen
shepherd in Swedish: Herde

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

DD, Doctor of Divinity, Gyropilot, Holy Joe, abbe, air warden, attend, attend to, attendant, automatic pilot, baby-sit, boatheader, boatsteerer, bodyguard, cage, care for, caretaker, castellan, cattleman, cavalier, chaperon, chaplain, cherish, churchman, cicerone, clergyman, cleric, clerical, clerk, companion, conduct, conductor, conservator, conserve, convoy, corral, courier, cowboy, cowgirl, cowhand, cowherd, cowman, cowpuncher, coxswain, curate, curator, cure, custodian, direct, divine, dragoman, drive, drove, drover, duenna, ecclesiastic, escort, esquire, fellow traveler, forest ranger, foster, game warden, gamekeeper, gaucho, goad, goatherd, gooseboy, gooseherd, governor, guard, guardian, guardian angel, guide, guidepost, guider, helmsman, herd, herder, herdsman, hogherd, hold the reins, horse wrangler, horseherd, janitor, keep watch over, keeper, lash, lead, lifeguard, lifesaver, look after, look out for, look to, man of God, marshal, matronize, mercury, military chaplain, mind, minister, minister to, mother, navigator, next friend, nurse, nurture, padre, parson, pastor, pigman, pilot, pointer, preserve, prick, prochein ami, protege, provide for, punch cattle, puncher, pursue, ranger, rector, reverend, ride herd on, river pilot, round up, route, run, safe-conduct, see, see after, see to, servant of God, sheepherder, sheepman, shepherdess, show, sky pilot, spur, squire, steer, steerer, steersman, steward, supply clergy, supply minister, support, swain, swanherd, swineherd, take, take care of, take charge of, take out, take the helm, tend, the Reverend, the very Reverend, tonsured cleric, tour director, tour guide, usher, vaquero, waddy, wait on, warden, warder, watch, watch out for, watch over, whip, wrangle, wrangler
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1