The History of the Lanyard


You probably see them every day, and you may even own one yourself. Like most people, though, you have most likely never given much thought to the common and versatile cord known as the lanyard.


  • According to the Random House Dictionary, the etymology of the term "lanyard" or "laniard" dates back to the 15th century and is derived from the French word "laniere" meaning strap or thong. Originally, lanyards were used on ships to lash and tighten the riggings; sailors also used lanyards to carry items such as knives, pistols and whistles while on board.

Functions and Types

  • There are four main types of lanyards: cord, tube, ribbon--also called flat--and beaded. The materials used for lanyards range from cotton or polyester to metal beading. Lanyards vary in function from the serviceable nautical uses of lashing sail riggings to the decorative, as in the cording on a military police officer's uniform.


  • The most common style of lanyard is one worn around the neck; however, there are also wrist lanyards and lanyards made to attach to your belt or purse.

Modern Uses

  • Today, we see lanyards most commonly on items used for identification purposes: a neck lanyard is attached to a plastic see-through carrier containing a business ID card or other type of identification. Other uses include key chains, securing devices such as a remote or camera to your wrist, and as a fail-safe measure or "dead man's switch" on heavy machinery or industrial vehicles--such as trains.


  • The art of making lanyards--also called scoubidou--became a popular craft for children during the 1950s in France. Known in the US as boondoggle or gimp knotting, the craft is highly popular with summer camps and scouting associations.

Fundraising and Advertising

  • Because of their functionality and popularity, lanyards have become common fundraising and advertising items. Businesses will imprint their logo and contact information on a nylon lanyard to use as promotional giveaways. Custom school lanyards with breakaway clasps for safety, like those used at Holy Cross High School in Delran, New Jersey, serve the dual purpose of easy student identification as well as a fundraiser for the school.

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  • Photo Credit Image by, courtesy of Mike Lee
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