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Lord is traditionally an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power over others; a master, chief, or ruler. In only a few cases is "lord" a formal title in itself, most commonly that of Lord of the Manor (now largely historical) and certain other vestigial titles from the age of feudalism such as Lord of Mann. More generally, Lord is a generic term applied, for example, to people who hold a title of the peerage in the United Kingdom, or are entitled to courtesy titles, or to refer to a group or body of peers.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of English, the etymology of the word can be traced back to the Old English word hlāford which originated from hlāfweard meaning "bread keeper" or "loaf-ward", reflecting the Germanic tribal custom of a chieftain providing food for his followers. The appellation "lord" is primarily applied to men, while for women the appellation "lady" is used. However, this is not universal: the Lord of Mann, a title currently held by the Queen, and female Lord Mayors are examples of women who are styled Lord. The word "lady" originates from a similar structure, believed to have originally meant "loaf-kneade".
Under the feudal system, "lord" had a wide, loose and varied meaning. An overlord was a person from whom a landholding or a manor was held by a mesne lord or vassal under various forms of feudal land tenure. The modern term "landlord" is a vestigial survival of this function. A liege lord was a person to whom a vassal owed sworn allegiance. Neither of these terms were titular dignities, but rather factual appellations, which described the relationship between two or more persons within the highly stratified feudal social system. For example, a man might be Lord of the Manor to his own tenants but also a vassal of his own overlord, who in turn was a vassal of the King. Where a knight was a lord of the manor, he was referred to in contemporary documents as "John (Surname), knight, lord of (manor name)". A feudal baron was a true titular dignity, with the right to attend Parliament, but a feudal baron, Lord of the Manor of many manors, was a vassal of the King.
Lord of the Manor
The substantive title of "Lord of the Manor" came into use in the English medieval system of feudalism (or manorialism) after the Norman Conquest of 1066. The title "Lord of the Manor" was a titular feudal dignity which derived its force from the existence and operation of a manorial court or court baron at which he or his steward presided. To the tenants of a manor their lord was a man who commanded on occasion the power of exercising capital punishment over them. The term invariably used in contemporary mediaeval documents is simply "lord of X", X being the name of the manor. The term "Lord of the Manor" is a recent usage of historians to distinguish such lords from feudal barons and other powerful persons referred to in ancient documents variously as "Sire" (mediaeval French), "Dominus" (Latin), "Lord" etc. The title of "Lord of the Manor" is recognised by the British Government, in the form of the Her Majesty's Land Registry, as one of three elements of a manor that can affect[clarification needed] Land Registry. Modern legal cases have been won by persons claiming rights as lords of the manor over village greens. The heads of many ancient English land-owning families have continued to be lords of the manor of lands they have inherited. The UK Identity and Passport Service will include such titles on a British passport as an "observation" e.g. 'The Holder is the Lord of the Manor of X' provided the holder can provide documentary evidence of ownership. as will Passport Canada. The United States  and Australia, however, forbid the use of all titles on passports.
The Scottish title Laird is a shortened form of 'laverd' which is an old Scottish word deriving from an Anglo-Saxon term meaning 'Lord' and is also derived from the middle English word 'Lard' also meaning 'Lord'. 'Laird' is a hereditary title for the owner of a landed estate in the United Kingdom and is a title of gentry. The title of Laird may carry certain local or feudal rights, although unlike a Scottish Lordship of Parliament, a Lairdship has not always carried voting rights, either in the historic Parliament of Scotland or, after unification with the Kingdom of England, in the British House of Lords.
Lord is used as a generic term to denote members of the peerage. Five ranks of peer exist in the United Kingdom: in descending order these are duke, marquess or marquis, earl, viscount, and baron. The appellation "Lord" is used most often by barons, who are rarely addressed by their formal and legal title of "Baron", a notable exception being during a baron's introduction into the House of Lords when he begins his oath by saying "I, Baron X...of Y...". The correct style is 'Lord (X)', for example, Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, is commonly known as "Lord Tennyson". Marquesses, earls and viscounts are commonly also addressed as Lord. Dukes use the style "Duke of (X)", and are not correctly referred to as 'Lord (X)'. Dukes are formally addressed as 'Your Grace', rather than 'My Lord'. In the Peerage of Scotland, the members of the lowest level of the peerage have the substantive title 'Lord of Parliament' rather than Baron.
"Lord" is also used as a courtesy title for some or all of their children of senior members of the peerage: for example the younger sons of dukes and marquesses are entitled to use the style "Lord (first name) (surname)". As these titles are merely courtesy titles, the holder is not by virtue of the title a member of the peerage.
House of Lords
In the UK, the upper house of Parliament is officially termed the House of Peers, but is commonly called the House of Lords (or just 'The Lords'). The rank of baron is the most ancient degree of English nobility, and a commoner who is raised directly to a high degree in the peerage, for example a former prime minister who becomes an Earl, is always created a baron at the same time, by historic precedent. Indeed the peerage was anciently termed the baronage before the higher degrees were created. Three different classifications exist:
- Most peers who hold peerages created before the Life Peerages Act 1958 (and a few who hold peerages created thereafter) are hereditary peers, who until 1999 constituted the most numerous category of peers sitting in the House. There are in excess of 700 peers whose titles are heritable; however since the House of Lords Act 1999 they are no longer guaranteed a seat in the Lords and instead may take part in an election for a total of 92 seats in that House. All male members of the Peerage of England, the Peerage of Great Britain and the Peerage of the United Kingdom were before 1999 entitled to sit in the House of Lords by virtue of their title. Peeresses were granted the right to sit by the Peerage Act 1963. Peers of Scotland and Ireland, however, historically had limitations on their right to sit in the British Parliament. Between 1707 and 1963, Scottish peers participated in elections to determine which of them would take the 16 seats allocated to them as a whole. These elections were abolished by the Peerage Act 1963, and from then until 1999 all Scottish peers and peeresses were entitled to sit. Irish peers participated in similar elections from 1801 until 1922, when the Irish Free State was established. Elections of Irish peers ceased in 1922; however, already-elected Irish representative peers remained entitled to sit until their deaths. The last Irish representative peer to die was Francis Needham, 4th Earl of Kilmorey, who died in 1961. Many Irish peers also hold peerages of Great Britain or of the United Kingdom, which formerly entitled them to sit in the House (without being elected a representative peer) until 1999.
- The importance and legal significance of hereditary peers has declined steadily following the increase in the appointments of life peers. Life peers are entitled to sit in the House of Lords for the duration of their lives, but their titles are not hereditable by their heirs. Life peerages can only be created in the rank of baron, although it is possible for a life peer concurrently to hold a hereditary peerage of higher rank. The first life peers were appointed to assist in exercising the judicial functions of the House of Lords under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876. Widespread appointment of life peers was enabled by the Life Peerages Act 1958. Since that Act, about 1,086 life peers have been created. The only hereditary privilege associated with life peerages is that children of life peers are entitled to style themselves 'The Honourable (firstname) (surname)'.
- These first two groups (hereditary and life peers) are collectively and officially termed Lords Temporal as opposed to the third type of deemed baron sitting in the House known as Lords Spiritual. This last group consists of 26 Church of England bishops who are appointed in order of superiority[clarification needed]. Unlike Lords Temporal, who can be appointed from any of the four constituent nations of the UK, only bishops with English Sees are eligible to sit in the Upper Chamber. Bishops of the Church of Scotland traditionally sat in the Parliament of Scotland but were excluded in 1638 following the Scottish Reformation. Bishops in the Church of Scotland no longer exist in the traditional sense, and that Church has never sent members to sit in the House of Lords. The Church of Ireland ceased to send bishops to sit after Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1871. The Church in Wales ceased to be a part of the Church of England in 1920 following Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. Accordingly, bishops of the Church in Wales were no longer eligible to be appointed to the House of Lords as bishops of the Church of England.
Until the creation of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (early 21st century), certain judges sat in the House of Lords by virtue of holding life peerages. They were known collectively as the Law Lords. Those Law Lords who had held the office of Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom lost the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords, despite retaining their life peerages, upon creation of the Supreme Court. The appellation "Lord" is also used to refer to some judges in certain Commonwealth legal systems, who are not peers. Some such judges, for instance judges of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, are called "Lord Justice". Other Commonwealth judges, for example judges of Canadian provincial supreme courts, are known only as Justices but are addressed with deference in court as 'My Lord', 'My Lady', 'Your Lordship' or 'Your Ladyship'.
Examples of judges who use the appellation "lord" include:
- Justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom not holding peerages, who are addressed as if they were life peers by Royal Warrant. Wives of male justices who are not peers are addressed as if they were wives of peers. These forms of address are applicable both in court and in social contexts.
- Judges of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, known as 'Lord Justices of Appeal'.
- Judges of the Scottish Court of Session, known as 'Lords of Council and Session'.
- Justices of the Canadian provincial Supreme Courts, addressed in Court as "My Lord" or "My Lady" and referred to in legal literature as "Lordships" or "Ladyships".
- Judges of the Supreme Court of India and the High Courts of India, who are addressed as "My Lord" in court. The Bar Council of India however calls upon lawyers to give up this practice of addressing judges as 'lords'.
Various other high offices of state in the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and Republic of Ireland are prefixed with the deferential appellation of "lord" such as Lord Chancellor, Lord Privy Seal, Lord President of the Council and Lord Mayor. Holders of these offices are not ex officio peers, although the holders of some of the offices were in the past always peers.
In most cultures in Europe an equivalent appellation denoting deference exists. The French term Mon Seigneur ("My Lord"), shortened to the modern French Monsieur derives directly from the Latin seniorem, meaning "elder, senior". From this Latin source derived directly also the Italian Signore, the Spanish Señor, the Portuguese Senhor.
Non-Romance languages have their own equivalents. In various European languages, we have: Dutch Meneer/Mijnheer/De Heer (as in: aan de heer Joren Jansen), German Herr, Danish Herre, Welsh Arglwydd, Hungarian Úr, Greek Kyrie, Polish Pan, Breton Aotrou.
"Lord" is used as a title of deference for various gods or deities. The earliest recorded use of Lord in the English language in a religious context was by English Bible translators such as Bede. It was widely used in the King James Bible translated in the 17th century, see also Jesus is Lord.
- Islam: The English term Lord is often used to translate the Arabic term rabb (Arabic: رب), used with respect to Allah (Arabic: الله) .
- Hinduism: In Hindu theology, The Svayam Bhagavan may refer to the concept of the Absolute representation of the monotheistic God. Another name used more commonly used in Hindu theology is Ishvara, meaning "The Lord", the personal god consisting of the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
- Semitic religions: Other deities given corresponding appellations to "Lord" include:
- Baal, or Hadad, among the Caananites and most pre-monotheistic religion Semites was "The Lord" with whom only priests were allowed to speak. References to Baal in the Hebrew Bible, such as the prophet Elijah's confrontation with Baal's priests, usually correspond to local gods rather than to Hadad.
- Bel meaning 'Lord' is a common title of the Babylonian deity Marduk.
- En meaning 'Lord' as in Sumerian deities Enki and Enlil.
- Judaism: the Hebrew name YHWH (the Tetragrammaton) is usually rendered "the Lord" in English language Old Testament bibles. Following practice in spoken Hebrew, the complete Septuagint mainly used the Greek word Kyrios (Greek: Κύριος, meaning 'lord') to translate YHWH.
- Buddhism: it refers to the Buddha and in Jainism to the Mahavira.
- Nahuatl: the word 'Ahau' is translated as 'Lord' in reference to Aztec deities.
- Classical Greece: The name of the Greek god Adonis is regarded by many as a cognate of the Hebrew word for "lord", Adonai.
- Mormonism: it is believed that Jesus Christ was the YHVH (Jehovah) of the Old Testament in his pre-mortal existence, and since that name is translated "The Lord" in the King James Bible, in Mormonism "The Lord" refers to Jesus Christ, while Elohim, the being that created the cosmos, is referred to as "God". (See Mormon cosmology for references)
- Wicca: the Wiccan God is often referred to as 'The Lord' and the Wiccan Goddess as 'The Lady', or in the combination 'Lord and Lady' (in this form, the definite article "the" is usually omitted), usually in reference to a mythological pairing such as Cernunos and Cerridwen, and Diana (as in Stregheria, sometimes along with their daughter, Aradia, for whom alternate titles applied, such as 'Holy Pilgrimess' or 'Holy Sister'), Hades and Persephone, and so forth. Some Wiccans such as Gerald Gardner taught that there is another pantheistic Deity above these two which he called by the Aristotlean name the Prime Mover; Patricia Crowther uses the term "Dryghten", an Old English name for The Lord to refer to this Deity; while Starhawk uses the name Star Goddess to describe the being that created the cosmos. (See Wiccan views of divinity for references)
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- Forms of address in the United Kingdom
- Lord Bishop
- Lord Chamberlain
- Lord Commissioner of Justiciary
- Lord of Council and Session
- Lord High Admiral
- Lord High Constable
- Lord High Treasurer
- Lord of the Treasury
- Lord Justice Clerk
- Lord President of the Court of Session
- Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty (the Sea Lords)
- Lord Rector
- My Sweet Lord
- Nguyễn Lords
- Trịnh Lords
- Lord of the Isles
- "Appellation" is a preferable term to "title", as title may imply prima facie an official "title of nobility"; the present article seeks to emphasise that "lord" is not in general such a title, except in rare cases, but is rather an unofficial or informal term of deference
- Definition expands on: "lord" Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 28 Dec. 2011. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lord>.
- "This word means in general one with power and authority, a master or ruler...The word is used for anyone whom it was desired to address deferentially" Cruden's Complete Concordance to the Bible, revised edition, 1992, "Lord", p.390
- Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition (Revised 2005), p.1036
- Larousse Dictionnaire de la Langue Francaise, Paris, 1979, p.1713
- This usage follows the Jewish practice of substituting the spoken Hebrew word "Adonai" for YHWH when read aloud.
- NASB (1995). ""Preface to the New American Standard Bible"". New American Standard Bible (Updated Edition). Anaheim, California: Foundation Publications (for the Lockman Foundation). Archived from the original on 2006-12-07. "There is yet another name which is particularly assigned to God as His special or proper name, that is, the four letters YHWH (Exodus 3:14 and Isaiah 42:8). This name has not been pronounced by the Jews because of reverence for the great sacredness of the divine name. Therefore, it has been consistently translated LORD. The only exception to this translation of YHWH is when it occurs in immediate proximity to the word Lord, that is, Adonai. In that case it is regularly translated GOD in order to avoid confusion."