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Tribe of gad.jpg

a. ON. gadd-r spike, nail = OHG. and MHG. gart, Goth. gazd-s:{em}OTeut. *gazdo-z (cf. L. hasta). From the OTeut. deriv. *gazdjâ comes OHG. gerta (G. gerte), OE. {asg}{ehook}rd, {asg}ierd, {asg}yrd: see YARD. The original sense is probably that of ‘spike’ (as in Goth. and ON.), but the name is also given to the handle or shaft to which this is fixed (as in L. hasta); hence the meaning ‘rod’. The development of the word in Eng. has also been influenced by its similarity, both in form and in meaning, to OE. gád GOAD, with which it is not originally connected. The forms are not always easy to separate.

Gad, the Hebrew

Gad (Hebrew: גד ; "luck") was, according to the Book of Genesis, the first son of Jacob and Zilpah, the seventh of Jacob overall, and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Gad; however some Biblical scholars view this as postdiction, an eponymous metaphor providing an aetiology of the connectedness of the tribe to others in the Israelite confederation [1]. The text of the Torah argues that the name of Gad means luck/fortunate, in Hebrew, deriving from a root meaning cut/divide, in the sense of divided out; classical rabbinical literature argues that the name was a prophetic reference to the manna; some Biblical scholars suspect that refers to a deity originally worshipped by the tribe, namely Gad [2], the semitic deity of fortune, who, according to the Book of Isaiah, was still worshipped by certain Hebrews during the 6th century BC [3].

In the Biblical account, Gad's mother is only a handmaid, rather than a wife of Jacob, which scholars see as indicating that the authors saw the tribe of Gad as being not of entirely Israelite origin[2]; many scholars believe that Gad was a late addition to the Israelite confederation[4], as implied by the Moabite Stone, which seemingly differentiates between the Israelites and the tribe of Gad[5], and the books of Samuel and of Kings, which appear to portray Gad as an enemy of Israel[6]. Gad appears to have originally been a northwards-migrating nomadic tribe, at a time when the other tribes were quite settled in Canaan[7].

According to classical rabbinical literature, Gad was born on the tenth of Heshwan, and lived 125 years[2]. These sources go on to state that, unlike his other brothers, Joseph didn't present Gad to the Pharaoh, since Joseph didn't want Gad to become one of Pharaoh's guards, an appointment that would have been likely had the Pharaoh realised that Gad had great strength[8].


  • 1. A sharp spike of metal. Obs. exc. Hist.
a1225 Leg. Kath. 1945 Let {th}urhdriuen {th}refter {th}e spaken & te felien mid irnene gadien. ?a1400 Morte Arth. 3621 Gryme gaddes of stele, ghywes of iryne. 1563 GOLDING Cæsar VII. 225b, Stakes of a fote long stickt full of Iron hokes, and theis thei called gaddes [L. stimulos]. 1600 F. WALKER Sp. Mandeville 145b, A light Armour..full of short sharpe gaddes or Bodkins. 1834 [see GADLING1]. 1868 CUSSANS Her. vii. 104 It [the caltrap] was formed of four short but strong spikes, or Gads.
b. Applied to a stylus. Obs.
1570 FOXE tr. Prudentius' Death Cassianus in A. & M. (ed. 2) 129/1 These gads were but their pens wherewyth Theyr tables wrytten were. 1588 SHAKES. Tit. A. IV. i. 103, I will goe get a leafe of brasse, And with a Gad of steele will write these words.
c.GADLING1. (Cf. GAD v.1 a.)
1830 MEYRICK Illustr. Anct. Arms & Armour Plate lxxix, Fig. 2 A long gauntlet of the time of Elizabeth. In this specimen the gads lap over upwards.
  • 2. A bar of metal, esp. of iron or steel; also, an ingot. ? Obs. In Her., ‘a rectangular plate of steel, borne in the Arms of the Ironmongers' Company’ (Cussans).

c1250 Gen. & Ex. 3185 On an gold gad {edh}e name god Is grauen. 1387 TREVISA Higden (Rolls) VI. 199 Slegges and hameres, wi{th} {th}e whiche smythes smyte{th} and tempre{th} grete gaddes of iren. 1430-40 LYDG. Bochas IX. xxxi. (1554) 210b, Theodorus..On his body layde gaddes read brenning. 1513

DOUGLAS Æneis VIII. xii. 50 Slang gaddis of irne, and stane kast gret plente. 1581 W. STAFFORD Exam. Compl. ii. (1876) 60 Then I had as liefe haue smal gadds or plats of Siluer and Gold, without any coyne at al. 1587 Mirr. Mag., Wolsey lvii, To fawning doggs some times I gaue a bone, And flong some scrapps to such as nothing had; But in my hands, still kept the golden gad, That seru'd my turne. 1686 PLOT Staffordsh. 374 They cut it [steel] into narrower barrs about half an inch over, and then break it into short pieces of an inch, or two inches long, call'd Gadds. 1703 MOXON Mech. Exerc. 58 Flemish-steel is made..some in Bars and some in Gads. 1741 Compl. Fam.-Piece I. i. 69 this Liquor a Gad of Steel, about eight or ten Inches long. 1814 SCOTT Wav. xxx, ‘Deil be in me but I put this het gad down her throat.’ 1826 Ann. Reg. Chron. 29/2 The gaud or iron bar and the ring to which he was fastened. [Cf. GAID.] 1895 CROCKETT Men of Mosshags 377 After levelling a file [of soldiers] with his gaud of iron.
b. Mining. A pointed tool of iron or steel (see quot. 1881).
1671 Phil. Trans. VI. 2104 The Instruments commonly used in Mines..are..Gadds, or Wedges of 2l. weight, 4 square, well steeled at the point. 1753 CHAMBERS Cycl. Supp., Gad, in a small punch of iron with a long handle of wood. 1800 M. EDGEWORTH Lame Jervas i. (1832) 6 A pickaxe and a gad were put into my hands. 1881 RAYMOND Mining Gloss., Gad, 1. a steel wedge, 2. a small iron punch with a wooden handle used to break up ore.
  • 3. A spear. Obs. exc. Hist.
1548 W. PATTEN Exped. Scotl. in Arb. Garner III. 85 Four or five of this Captain's prickers with their gads ready charged. Ibid. 133 The Scottish prickers, within less than their gad's length asunder. a1555 RIDLEY in Cert. godly Conf. (1556) 33b, I haue knowen my contreiemen watche nighte and daie in their harnesse..and their speares in their hands (you call them northen gads). 1820 SCOTT Monast. xiv, I took a young Southern fellow out of saddle with my lance, and cast him, it might be, a gad's length from his nag.
  • 4. A pointed rod or stick used for driving oxen; a goad; also dial. (see quots. 1796 and 1855).
c1300 Havelok 279 Al Engelond was of him adrad So his {th}e beste fro {th}e gad. 1398 TREVISA Barth. De P.R. XVIII. xiv. (1495) 774 An oxe herde yockyth the oxen..and pricketh the slowe with a gad and makyth them drawe euen. 1514 BARCLAY Cyt. & Uplondyshm. (Percy Soc.) 15 Than brought our Lorde to them the carte & harowe, The gad & the whyp. 1535 COVERDALE Judg. iii. 31 Samgar..which slewe sixe hundreth Philistynes with an oxes gadd. 1607 N. Riding Rec. (1883) I. 78 Tho. Hildreth presented for that armed with gaddes he had assaulted John Pearson. 1796 W. MARSHALL Yorksh. (ed. 2) II. 321 Gad, a supple, tapering rod, six or seven feet long, with a leathern thong, about three feet long, fastened to the weaker end. 1855 ROBINSON Whitby Gloss., Gad, a tapering rod ended with a leather thong as a whip for driving a team of horses or oxen. 1863 J. L. W. By-gone Days 10 The long gad or goad with which he impelled the horses or oxen.
b. Phrase. upon the gad: as if pricked with a gad; suddenly. (Cf. upon the spur of the moment.) Obs.

1605 SHAKES. Lear I. ii. 26 All this done Vpon the gad?

  • 5. dial. A rod or wand, esp. a fishing-rod. Also, a stake or stout stick.
1535 FISHER Wks. (1876) 395 And hys blessed heade so Crowned, they dyd beate it downe with a gadde, or a harde Reede. 1552 HULOET, Angling gad, or rodde, pertica. 1796 W. MARSHALL Yorksh. (ed. 2) Gloss. s.v. (E.D.S.), A fishing-rod is in like manner called a ‘fishing-gad’. 1829 T. DOUBLEDAY Fisher's Call in Anniversary 64 Then up an' rig your gads, And to it, fishers, to it! 1847 FOSTER in Whistle-Binkie (Scot. Songs) Ser. II. (1890) 230 The lang sma' taper gad is swung Around wi easy slight. 1863 BARNES Dorset Gloss., Gad, a hedge stake, or stout stick. 1887 T. HARDY Woodlanders iii, An armful of gads thrown on the still hot embers caused them to blaze up cheerfully.
  • 6. A measuring rod for land; hence, a measure of length differing in various districts. Cf. GOAD n.
c1440 Promp. Parv. 184/1 Gad, to mete wythe londe (P. gadde, or rodde), decempeda. 1502 ARNOLDE Chron. (1811) 173 In dyuers odur placis in this lande they mete ground by pollis gaddis and roddis some be of xviij. foote some of xx fote and som xvi fote in lengith. 1599 SKENE De Verb. Sign. s.v. Particata, Ane rod is ane staffe, or gade of tymmer, quhairwith land is measured. 1706 PHILLIPS (ed. Kersey), Gad, or Geometrical Pearch, a Measure of Ten Foot, and in some places but Nine Foot.
b. A division of an open pasture, in Lincolnshire usually 6 feet wide; = SWATH.
1593 Kirton-in-Lindsey Court Roll (N.W. Linc. Gloss.). 1717 N. Riding Rec. VII. 285, I am seized of..four gads in the Bishop Ings. 1794 Act Inclos. S. Kelsey 19 Owners and Proprietors of Gads in a certain Piece of Ground..each Gad being Two Roods, Two Perches and a Half.
  • 7. Comb.: gad-bit (see quot.); gad-cracking (see gad-whip 1889); gad-crook, -hook, -meadow (see quots.); gad-nail (see quot. 1841); gad-sledge Mining, a sledge hammer for driving gads; {dag}gad-staff = GAD n.1 4; {dag}gad-steel (see quot. 1703); gad-stick = GAD n.1 4; {dag}gad-wand = GAD n.1 4, 6; gad-whip, a heavy cart-whip. Also GAD-BEE, GAD-BREEZE, GAD-FLY, GAD-MAN.
1847-78 HALLIWELL, *Gad-bit, a nail-passer. 1841 HAMPSON Medii Ævi Kalend. I. 182 At Hundon, in Lincolnshire, there is still annually practised on this day [Palm Sunday] a remarkable custom, called *Gad Cracking. 1886 ELWORTHY W. Somerset Word-bk., *Gad-crook, a long pole with an iron hook or claw. 1847-78 HALLIWELL, *Gad-hook, a long pole with an iron hook attached to it. Somerset. 1787 Surv. Manor Kirton-in-Lindsey in N.W. Linc. Gloss. s.v., All the lands in the Ings are laid out in gads or swaths; they are called *gad-meadows. 1375-6 Abingdon Acc. (Camden) 28 Item in clauis, *gadnayl et bordnayl..ij s. ij d. 1841 HARTSHORNE Salop. Antiqua Gloss., Gadnail, a long and stout nail used chiefly in fastening posts and rails. 1874 J. H. COLLINS Metal Mining 61 These boring sledges are sometimes used for driving wedges or ‘gads’..Sometimes a special ‘*gad-sledge’ is provided for the purpose. 15.. Wyf of Auchtirmuchty 46 (Laing), Scho lowsit oxin aucht or nyne, And hynt ane *gad~staff in hir hand. a1618 Rates Merchandize Lija, Steele, vocat. *Gad-steele the halfe barrell. 1622 MALYNES Anc. Law-Merch. 270 Good Steele in barres, and also Gad Steele. 1703 MOXON Mech. Exerc. 58 Flemish-steel is made..some in Bars and some in Gads, and is therefore by us call'd Flemish-steel, and sometimes Gad-steel. 1375 BARBOUR Bruce x. 232 He than lete the *gad wand fall. 1513 DOUGLAS Æneis IX. x. 47 And passand by the plewis, for gad wandis, Broddis the oxin wyth speris in our handis. 1570 LEVINS Manip. 23/7 A Gadwande, partica. 1827 G. P. J. in Hone Every-day Bk. II. 394 A very large ox-whip, called here a *gad-whip. [Speaking of the Broughton tenure: see next quot.] 1842 WHITE Hist. Lincolnsh. 570 On Palm Sunday, a person from Broughton brings [into Caistor Church porch] a large whip, called a gad whip, the stock of which is made of wood, tapered towards the top; the thong is large, and made of white leather. [He cracked the whip three times, this being the service by which the land at Broughton was held.]


  1. Peake's Bible Commentary
  2. Jewish Encyclopedia
  3. Isaiah 65:11
  4. ibid
  5. ibid
  6. ibid
  7. ibid
  8. ibid