(also avant garde, avantgarde); French, literally "advance guard" (see avant + guard (n.)). Used in English 15c.-18c. in a literal, military sense; borrowed again 1910 as an artistic term for "pioneers or innovators of a particular period." Also used around the same time in a political sense in communist and anarchist publications. As an adjective, by 1925.
The avant-garde générale, avant-garde stratégique, or avant-garde d'armée is a strong force (one, two, or three army corps) pushed out a day's march to the front, immediately behind the cavalry screen. Its mission is, vigorously to engage the enemy wherever he is found, and, by binding him, to ensure liberty of action in time and space for the main army. ["Sadowa," Gen. Henri Bonnal, transl. C.F. Atkinson, 1907]
late 13c. (late 12c. in surnames), from Old North French gardin "(kitchen) garden; orchard; palace grounds" (Old French jardin, 13c., Modern French jardin), from Vulgar Latin *hortus gardinus "enclosed garden," via Frankish *gardo or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *gardan- (source also of Old Frisian garda, Old Saxon gardo, Old High German garto, German Garten "a garden," Old English geard, Gothic gards "enclosure"), from PIE root *gher- (1) "to grasp, enclose." Italian giardino, Spanish jardin are from French.
As an adjective from c. 1600. Garden-party "company attending an entertainment on the lawn or garden of a private house" is by 1843. Garden-variety in figurative sense first recorded 1928. To lead someone up the garden path "entice, deceive" is attested by 1925. Garden-glass "round dark glass reflective globe (about a foot and a half across) placed on a pedestal, used as a garden ornament," is from 1842.
measure of length, Old English gerd (Mercian), gierd (West Saxon) "rod, staff, stick; measure of length," from West Germanic *gazdijo, from Proto-Germanic *gazdjo "stick, rod" (source also of Old Saxon gerda, Old Frisian ierde, Dutch gard "rod;" Old High German garta, German gerte "switch, twig," Old Norse gaddr "spike, sting, nail"), from PIE root *ghazdh-o- "rod, staff, pole" (source also of Latin hasta "shaft, staff"). The nautical yard-arm retains the original sense of "stick."
Originally in Anglo-Saxon times a land measure of roughly 5 meters (a length later called rod, pole, or perch). Modern measure of "three feet" is attested from late 14c. (earlier rough equivalent was the ell of 45 inches, and the verge). In Middle English and after, the word also was a euphemism for "penis" (as in "Love's Labour's Lost," V.ii.676). Slang meaning "one hundred dollars" first attested 1926, American English. Middle English yerd (Old English gierd) also was "yard-land, yard of land," a varying measure but often about 30 acres or a quarter of a hide.