Fidalgo (Portuguese: [fiˈðaɫɣu], Galician: [fiˈðalɣo]), from Galician and Portuguese filho de algo—sometimes translated into English as "son of somebody" or "son of some (important family)"—is a traditional title of Portuguese nobility that refers to a member of the titled or untitled nobility. A fidalgo is comparable in some ways to the French gentilhomme (the word also implies nobility by birth or by charge) and to the Italian nobile. The title was abolished after the overthrow of the Monarchy in 1910. It is also a family surname.
Origins and etymology
The word has the same etymological and historical roots as its Spanish cognate, hidalgo. Although the word algo generally means "something", in this expression the word specifically denotes "riches" or "wealth"; therefore, it was originally a synonym of rico homem (literally a "rich man").
As late as the reign of Afonso III (1248–1279), who completed the conquest of the Algarve, the nobility was not differentiated as it would later be. All nobles, who were the large landowners, were simply referred to by the two synonyms, fidalgo or ricos homens. Originally rico homem referred to the administrative duties entrusted to a noble and fidalgo referred to the inherited status of nobility, or in an older parlance, "the nobility of blood." Below the ricos homens were a descending category of their vassals: the infanções, the knights (cavaleiros) and the squires (escudeiros). It was during the reign of John I (1385–1433) that the terms rico homem and fidalgo came to have their final meanings. Since large segments of the nobility did not side with John I in the 1383–1385 Crisis and the subsequent war with Castile, they lost their lands once the new king secured his claim to the throne. It was replaced by a new nobility elevated out of previously non-noble families by John I, modeled on the English system. The term fidalgo came to be applied to a category analogous to the English "gentleman." By the start of the fifteenth century the term infanção fell out of use and knight came to mean all those below the ricos homens. Fidalgo began to be emphasized because, in its sense of someone who had inherited nobility, it differentiated the older knights from the growing bourgeoisie that was continuing to gain access to the knighthood through their accomplishments in the service of the state.
- Corominas, Joan and José A Pascual (1981). "Hijo" in Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico, Vol. G-Ma (3). Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 359-360. ISBN 84-249-1362-0
- Nowell, Charles E. (195 2). A History of Portugal. New York: D. Van Nostrand. pp. 11, 23–24.
- Oliveira Marques, A. H. de (1971). Daily Life in Portugal in the Late Middle Ages. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 9. ISBN 0-299-05580-9.