The Word-Hoard: Dray




A vehicle used to haul goods; especially a strong cart or wagon without sides.



To haul on a dray.


Not too long ago we looked at a similar word – “wain.” Like “wain,” “dray” is another word for a wagon or cart, and like these two nouns it can also be used as a verb to express the transport of something by such a vehicle. Though I don’t perceive a hard and fast limitation, “dray” seems more often used to describe a vehicle with no sides. In this case, many drays may simply be palettes mounted upon wheels.

“Dray” derives from the Old English¬†dragan, “to draw,” and originally meant a cart without wheels that had to be dragged.

I first encountered the word in Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure stories (see the example below). It was easy enough to gather the meaning of the word from context, but having never seen or heard it before I wasn’t sure if it was just an obscure synonym or an invented word for an alien contraption. Excellent word choice by Mr. Vance.


“Drive around the building again.”

“I must charge you an additional five sequins.”

“Two. And no complaints, or I’ll rattle your teeth.”

Cursing under his breath, Emmink swung the dray around the factory.


РJack Vance, City of the Chasch (1968)

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