Increasing Your Vocabulary: Swidden

People have probably heard of the practice that swidden describes, though they may have never heard of the word. Let me put it this way; have you ever heard about the people cutting down the rainforest, piling the trees, bushes, and so forth into big piles, then burning those piles, all for the purpose of clearing the land for farming?

That is exactly what the noun “swidden” describes. Swidden is the area that has been cleared for farming by cutting everything down and burning it.

This word has been in use since the mid-1800’s and it originates from the old Nordic word, ‘svithna’. Svithna means “to be singed”.

The practice of cutting and burning vegetation is an old one, too. It isn’t limited to the Amazon. People are simply most aware of it being done to the Amazon jungles. It was also a common practice during the colonial period in North America, though there are more trees in the area of the United States than there were in 1800.

Before this was done in North America, it was done in the UK, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.


What do you think?

Written by Rex Trulove