yard and ell n Also yard ell, yard (and) L [Prob reversal of ell and yard (var of ellen yard n), understood to mean the sword and belt of Orion. Cf arch and dial Engl (golden) yard, yard band for the belt (OED2 at yard n.2, EDD at yard sb.1 1.(1).(b)) ] chiefly NEast obs
The belt (and usu the sword) of the constellation Orion; broadly, Orion as a whole.
1830 Wilbur Elements Astronomy 39, Two large stars in the constellation Orion (known in popular language as the Yard and L.) are double stars. 1837 Bradford Wonders Heavens 37, Both of these [=the sword and belt of Orion] were named Napoleon in 1807 by the university at Leipsic, but they are more commonly known as the Yard and Ell. The three in the belt forming the yard measure three degrees in length. . . The Ell is once and a quarter the length of the belt. 1846 Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer (OH) 27 Jan /2, About an hour and a half above Sirius is the yard Ell, or the belt of Orion. 1893 Darmouth Lit. Mth. 7.291 cwNH, I hove up an eye to see how the yard ell hung, an’ there was er tarnal great sprout hangin’ out er the Milky Way, that looked jest like er thumb pointin’ down. 1894 NY Herald (NY) 4 Mar sec 4 10/3, The three stars which form the belt [of Orion] are sometimes regarded as forming an asterism in themselves. . . Taken in connection with the stars which form the sword they are sometimes called the Yard L., or the Yard and Ell. 1897 Jrl. Amer. Folkl. 10.298 Cape Cod MA, One old captain . . informed me he had never heard of the ell and yard, but knew all about the yard and ell. . . He explained that the three stars in the belt were called the yard because they resembled the yard-arm of a ship, but when joined with the stars in the sword they formed the letter L.