Farrier or ferrier? Which is correct?

I’ve always referred to the person who shod my horse as a “farrier” but over the years, I’ve seen several people write it as “ferrier.” At first, I thought it was an error. But, thinking like my grandfather (who had the largest dictionary I’ve ever seen in his office so you could check the etymology of words), I did a little research.

Photo from http://www.americanfarriers.com

It turns out that farrier (which is the current preferred English usage) evolved from the Middle French word “ferrier“, which meant blacksmith (back then, iron workers and blacksmiths were one and the same). Ferrier, in turn, evolved from the Latin word ferrarius which means “of iron”, which is from the Latin ferrum, “iron”.

Other spellings throughout the centuries have included ferrer and ferrour.


17 thoughts on “Farrier or ferrier? Which is correct?

  1. That’s good to know. I’ve always used “farrier” and I get ferrier mixed up with ferryman, as in someone who pilots a ferry over the water. I am surprised, though, how many people I run into who don’t know what I’m talking about when I mention my farrier. I always have to clarify by saying horseshoer. It’s all good though. Thanks for the word origin.

  2. My grandfather had a true love of words and was always looking up the origins of words or phrases. It makes me think of him when I carry on the tradition.

    1. Actually, farriers shoe a horse. According to my etymology listing:
      “one who shoes horses,” from Middle French ferrier “blacksmith,” from Latin ferrarius “blacksmith,” noun use of adjective meaning “of iron,” from ferrum “iron” (in Medieval Latin, also “horseshoe”); see ferro-.

  3. My son, his “bro” and girlfriend of 7 years met in Special Olympics Horseback Riding class/team. Eli has ridden since he was four, and with S/O for 8 years. Regardless how you spell it, thank you for taking care of these majestic and beloved animals. As my son has grown in many ways over the years so have the size of the horses who work with him, from pony to alternating between Belgian and Percheron. All of the horses in this program are rescued or donated.

    Thank you for having fora for word nerds as well!

    1. Marti, I impressed… So happy ur sun has that… And the people who have helped give him that along the way… I am very very very respectful of horses. I think they are wise, bright and humongous! My 25yo is thinking of becoming a farrier/ferrier (spellchick likes the ‘a’, by the way 😊) as a carrier. (Haha that supposed to be ‘career’!) He loves metal working. I told him to pls spend as much time around horses as poss before plunging into a very $$ training… In Kentucky I believe?! 🙆 (we on west coast) it is fun, exciting and…. expansive, sigh, to watch our kids grow up. I’m trying to grow with! 🙋🙆💐
      best to us all…

  4. Curious to know, if the Latin and French origin began with ‘fe’, why it ever changed to ‘fa’? Many words change over time because people can’t spell.

  5. I’m calling an audible here: “common usage” doesn’t always make it correct. I realize we have many words which have crept into our dictionary over the centuries, which we call “evolutions” because someone spelled it wrong, then pronounced it wrong, and then a new word is born….. But those of us who love language(s) know that only ‘e’ can be correct. “Fer” = Iron. “Ferrous”, “Ferrier”, “Ferrari”, all come from that root. Okay fine, maybe not the last one. 😉

  6. As a life-long horse lover, I have known someone who shoes horses and he was a “farrier”. The 1993 edition of of Webster’s Universal Dictionary and Thesaurus lists “farrier” (n) as “a person who shoes horses.” This dictionary does not list “ferrier” as a word. And it lists “ferryman” as someone who operates a ferry to take people across rivers.

    1. Agree that Farrier is common usage but my etymology dictionary suggests it came from: 1560s, “one who shoes horses,” from French ferrier “blacksmith,” from Latin ferrarius “blacksmith,” noun use of adjective meaning “of iron,” from ferrum “iron” (in Medieval Latin, also “horseshoe”). I love etymology. My grandfather would always look up words so that we understood where they came from.

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