The virgate (Medieval Latin: virgāta) or yardland (Middle English: yardland) was a unit of land area measurement used in medieval England, typically outside the Danelaw, and was held to be the amount of land that a team of two oxen could plough in a single annual season. It was equivalent to a quarter of a hide, so was nominally thirty acres. A ‘virgater’ would thus be a peasant who occupied or worked this area of land, and a ‘half virgater’ would be a person who occupied or worked about 15 acres (61,000 m2).
The Danelaw equivalent of a virgate was two oxgangs, or ‘bovates’: as these names imply, the oxgang or bovate was considered to represent the amount of land that could be worked in a single annual season by a single ox, and therefore equated to half a virgate. As such, the oxgang represented a parallel division of the carucate. Accordingly, a 'bovater' is the Danelaw equivalent of a half virgater.
‘Virgate’ is an anglicisation of the Medieval Latin virgata. In some parts of England, it was divided into four nooks (Middle English: noke; Medieval Latin: noca). Nooks were occasionally further divided into a farundel (Middle English: ferthendel; Old English: fēorþan dǣl, "fourth deal, fourth share").
Virgate in botany and related disciplines is an adjective derived from the Latin virgatus, meaning in part, "made of twigs" or "striped". In current botanical usage it most often refers to plants with wand-shaped, erect branches or stems. the diminutive is "virgulate". The term occurs commonly in the biological names of plants, such as Vaccinium virgatum or Chloris virgata.
Virgate, and particularly virgulate, also can mean "finely striped" and the terms are used accordingly in mycology. In describing a pileus or "cap" of a mushroom, it refers to radiating stripes or ribs, as in Tricholoma virgatum.
- D. Hey ed., Oxford Companion to Local and Family History (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996), 476.
- Stephen Friar, Batsford Companion to Local History (Batsford, London 1991), 270.
- "Noca - nook (measure of land)" R. W. Latham, Revised Mediaval Latin Word-list (Oxford University Press, London: for British Academy 1965), 312.
- Bosworth, Joseph; T. Northcote Toller (1882). An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. Oxford University Press. p. 281.
- Jackson, Benjamin, Daydon; A Glossary of Botanic Terms with their Derivation and Accent; Published by Gerald Duckworth & Co. London, 4th ed 1928