She was sitting there one afternoon in early June. The sun was coming in at the window warm and bright; the orchard on the slope below the house was in a bridal flush of pinky-white bloom, hummed over by a myriad of bees. Thomas Lynde—a meek little man whom Avonlea people called "Rachel Lynde's husband"—was sowing his late turnip seed on the hill field beyond the barn; and Matthew Cuthbert ought to have been sowing his on the big red brook field away over by Green Gables.

-- L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

What does over mean? (I guess over has two possibility: (1) over the orchard - vertically upward; horizontally from here to there, (2) all sounds are drowned because of the bees’ humming.)

  • This is lovely! I can almost see her orchard right in front of my face, at its full blooming, countless of bees humming over the orchard! What a vivid and beautiful sight to see! Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 14:11
  • 1
    Your second guess is the correct one, I think.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 14:25

1 Answer 1


At its most basic level, over can be taken to signify spatial position, ‘above’. But hummed over is an unusual and quite complex construction.

In the first place, over in the context of bees and flowers suggests not merely elevation but distribution: the bees do not hover above the flowers but are to be found within and across them—“all over” them.

In the second place, over with an activity verb like hum suggests comparison with similar VERB over phrases. Nurses watch over the children in their charge, scholars pore over ancient manuscripts, a chairman presides over a meeting. To come closer to hum, a mother sings over her child's cradle, a priest chants over the sacrifice, customers ooh and ahh over a spectacular display of merchandise.

All of these evoke a sense of close and purposeful attention; and that is emphasized, I think, by the passive form in which hum over is cast. To me, the phrase strongly suggests that the flowers are being tended by the bees, who are actively pursuing their agricultural purposes in the same way as Lynde is pursuing his.

The phrase suggests that Cuthbert’s failure to sow his turnips is not merely out of character but a sort of breach in the natural order.

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