A Dictionary of the English Language
                        A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson
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Ba'ron. n.s. [The etymology of this word is very uncertain. Baro, among the Romans, signified a brave warriour, or a brutal man; and, from the first of these significations, Menage derives baron, as a term of military dignity. Others suppose it originally to signify only a man; in which sense baron, or varon, is still used by the Spaniards; and, to confirm this conjecture, our law yet uses baron and femme, husband and wife. Others deduce it from ber, an old Gaulish word, signifying commander; others from the Hebrew נבר, of the same import. Some think it a contraction of par homme, or peer, which seems least probable.]

  1. A degree of nobility next to a viscount. It may be probably thought, that anciently, in England, all those were called barons, that had such signiories as we now call court barons. And it is said, that, after the conquest, all such came to the parliament, and sat as nobles in the upper house. But when, by experience, it appeared, that the parliament was too much crouded with such multitudes, it became a custom, that none should come, but such as the king, for their extraordinary wisdom or quality, thought good to call by writ; which writ ran hac vice tantum. After that, men, seeing that this state of nobility was but casual, and depending merely on the prince's pleasure, obtained of the king letters patent of this dignity to them and their heirs male: and these were called barons by letters patent, or by creation; whose posterity are now those barons that are called lords of the parliament; of which kind the king may create more at his pleasure. It is nevertheless thought, that there are yet barons by writ, as well as barons by letters patent, and that they may be discerned by their titles; the barons by writ being those, that to the title of lord have their own surnames annexed; whereas the barons by letters patent, are named by their baronies. These barons which were first by writ, may now justly also be called barons by prescription; for that they have continued barons, in themselves and their ancestors, beyond the memory of man. There are also barons by tenure, as the bishops of the land, who, by virtue of baronies annexed to their bishopricks, have always had place in the upper house of parliament, and are called lords spiritual.

  2. Baron is an officer, as barons of the exchequer to the king: of these the principal is called lord chief baron, and the three others are his assistants, between the king and his subjects, in causes of justice, belonging to the exchequer.

  3. There are also barons of the cinque ports; two to each of the seven towns, Hastings, Winchelsea, Rye, Rumney, Hithe, Dover, and Sandwich, that have places in the lower house of parliament. Cowel.

                                They that bear
    The cloth of state above, are four barons
    Of the cinque ports.
    Shakesp. Henry VIII.

  4. Baron is used for the husband in relation to his wife. Cowel.

  5. A baron of beef is when the two sirloins are not cut asunder, but joined together by the end of the backbone. Dict.

Sources: Cowell, John (42) · Shakespeare's Henry VIII (62) · Quoted from Another Dictionary (215)

Attributes: French (385) · Gaulish (3) · Hebrew (11) · Latin (690) · Noun Substantive (1269) · Spanish (12)

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Cite this page: Johnson, Samuel. "Baron." A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. Last modified: January 25, 2014. https://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/baron/.

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