Paramount (derived from the Anglo-French word paramont, which means up above, or par a mont, meaning up or on top of the mountain) is the highest authority, or that being of the greatest importance. The word was first used as a term of feudal law, of the overlord, the lord paramount, who held his fief from no superior lord, and was thus opposed to mesne lord, one who held from a superior. To those who held their fiefs from one who was not a lord paramount was given the correlative term paravail, (from par d val, meaning in the valley). The word was confused by English lawyers with "avail," help, assistance, profit, and applied to the actual working tenant of the land, the lowest tenant or occupier.
A well-documented example of paramountcy is the Lordship of Bowland. In 1311, it was subsumed as part of the Honour of Clitheroe into the Earldom of Lancaster. After 1351, it was administered as part of the Duchy of Lancaster, with the Duke (from 1399, the Sovereign) acknowledged lord paramount over the Forest of Bowland and the ten manors of the Liberty of Bowland. As lord paramount, he was styled Lord King of Bowland.
- Sir William Searle. "An historical introduction to the land law page 105 to 107". Google Books Preview.
- Cambridge History of the Lordship of Bowland