march (v.)

"to walk with measured steps or a regular tread," either individually or as a body, early 15c., from Old French marcher "to stride, march, walk," originally "to trample, tread underfoot," a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Frankish *markon or some other Germanic source related to Middle English march (n.) "borderland" (see march (n.2)). Or possibly from Gallo-Roman *marcare, from Latin marcus "hammer," via notion of "tramping the feet."

The transitive meaning "cause to march, cause to move in military order" is from 1590s. Sense of "cause (someone) to go (somewhere) at one's command" is by 1884. Related: Marched; marching. Marching band is attested by 1852. Italian marciare, Spanish marchar are said to be from French.


third month of our year, first month of the ancient Roman calendar, c. 1200, from Anglo-French marche, Old French marz, from Latin Martius (mensis) "(month) of Mars," from Mars (genitive Martis). The Latin word also is the source of Spanish marzo, Portuguese março, Italian marzo, German März, Dutch Maart, Danish Marts, etc.

Replaced Old English hreðmonaþ, the first part of which is of uncertain meaning, perhaps from hræd "quick, nimble, ready, active, alert, prompt." Another name for it was Lide, Lyde (c.1300), from Old English hlyda, which is perhaps literally "noisy" and related to hlud "loud" (see loud). This fell from general use 14c. but survived into 19c. in dialect.

For March hare, proverbial type of madness, see mad (adj.). The proverb about coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb is since 1630s. March weather has been figurative of changeableness since mid-15c.

march (n.1)

"act of marching;" 1580s, "a measured and uniform walk; a regular advance of a body of persons in which they keep time with each other," from march (v.) or else from French marche (n.), from marcher (v.). As "an advance from one halting place to another," also the distance so covered, from 1590s.

The musical sense of "strongly rhythmic composition" is attested from c. 1600, from the earlier meaning "rhythmic drumbeat for marching" (1570s). The earliest sense of the word in English is "footprint, track" (early 15c.), from a sense in Old French. Transferred sense of "forward motion" (as in march of progress, etc.) is from 1620s.

march (n.2)

"a frontier, boundary of a country; border district," early 13c., from Old French marche "boundary, frontier," from Frankish *marka or some other Germanic source (compare Old Saxon marka, Old English mearc; Old High German marchon "to mark out, delimit," German Mark "boundary"), from Proto-Germanic *markō; see mark (n.1)). Now obsolete.  Related: Marches.

In early use often in reference to the borderlands beside Wales, sometimes rendering Old English Mercia; later especially of the English border with Scotland. There was a verb marchen in Middle English (c. 1300), "to have a common boundary," from Old French marchier "border upon, lie alongside," which survived in dialect.

This is the old Germanic word for "border, boundary," but as it came to mean "borderland" in many languages, other words were shifted or borrowed to indicate the original sense (compare border (n.), bound (n.)"border, boundary"). Modern German Grenze is from Middle High German grenize (13c., replacing Old High German marcha), a loan-word from Slavic (compare Polish and Russian granica). Dutch grens, Danish groense, Swedish gräns are from German.

updated on December 08, 2020