Word Hoard

Monday, October 22, 2007


Put these five words in order of importance in the British hierarchy:

viscount, marquis, earl, duke, baron

I think peerage is an interesting word to describe a ranking system. It comes from Latin par equal via French per. So a word meaning equal groups five rankings.

Answers below:

Peerage 2

I was going through my bedside dictionary (Webster's 7th New Collegiate 1965) probably looking up naughty, from naught/nothing. As my eyes are wont, they caught notice of marquess or (marquis). It comes from Middle French ultimately from marche--march. It means 1 a nobleman of hereditary rank in Europe and Japan and, for our purposes, 2 a member of the second grade of the peerage in Great Britain ranking below a duke and above an earl. So the first bit is filled out. Which word is penultimate?

Earl comes from Old English eorl warrior, nobleman "akin to Old Norse jarl warrior, nobleman. It is defined only as a member of the third grade of the British peerage ranking below a marquess and above a . . .

Viscount comes from Latin vicecomes vice + comes count (comes from companion, one of the imperial court, from com + ire to go. It means, as you would expect, a member of the peerage in Great Britain ranking below an earl and above a baron.

Baron is from Old French of Germanic origin "akin to Old High German baro freeman."

And to close things out dukeis from Latin ducere to lead.