Pasture can be used as both a verb and noun, though “to pasture” is considered regional, meaning to graze or browse, allowing animals to forage and feed in a field or meadow of growing grasses, as in “That land will easily pasture thirty cows.” As a noun, pasture refers to an area of land covered with grasses or herbage suitable for grazing livestock. Alternatively, it can mean the provender itself—grasses or flowers. Related terms are pasturage and pastureland, used synonymously. The etymology of pasture, coming from Latin through Middle French into English, is straightforward, and refers to attending to the feeding of beasts. Beyond this, pasture has a figurative association with spirituality and rest: it is the root of the word pastor, connecting a spiritual leader to the role of the shepherd who assures his flock of good grazing land. One of the best-known Psalms, the Twenty-third, relies on this poetic association: “The Lord is my Shepherd. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” In a wholly secular but also figurative use of the term, a worker who has retired has either “gone out to pasture” or “been sent out to pasture.”

Patricia Hampl