What Is The Meaning of Lord?
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 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, thus he was the lord of the manorial court which determined the rules and laws which were to govern all the inhabitants and property covered by the jurisdiction of the court. To the tenants of a certain class of manor known in Saxon times as Infangenthef their lord was a man who had 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 for any such title registered at Her Majesty’s Land Registry before 13 October 2003 (the commencement date of the Land Registration Act 2002) but after that date titles can no longer be registered, and any such titles voluntarily de-registered by the holder cannot later be re-registered. However any transfer of ownership of registered manors will continue to be recorded in the register, on the appropriate notification. Thus in effect the register is closed for new registrations. Such titles are legally classified as “incorporeal hereditaments” as they have no physical existence, and usually have no intrinsic value. However a lucrative market arose in the 20th century for such titles, often for purposes of vanity, which was assisted by the existence of an official register, giving the purchaser the impression of a physical existence. Whether a title of “Lord of the Manor” is registered or unregistered has no effect on its legal validity or existence, which is a matter of law to be determined by the courts. 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  however, forbids the use of all titles on passports. Australia forbids the use of titles on passports if those titles have not been awarded by the Crown (in reference to the Australian Monarchy) or the Commonwealth (in reference to the Australian Government).
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’. The word is generally used to refer to any owner of a landed estate and has no meaning in heraldic terms and its use is not controlled by the Lord Lyon.
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, 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”. The most formal style is ‘The Lord (X)’: for example, Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, can be called as “The Lord Tennyson”, although the most common appellation is “Lord Tennyson”. Marquesses, earls and viscounts are commonly also addressed as Lord. Dukes use the style “The 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 the 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 and is not entitled to use the definite article ‘The’ as part of the title. Sons of British Princes, would also use a similar style if the holder doesn’t have a peerage.
House of Lords
The upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom is the House of Lords, which is an abbreviation of the full title, The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament Assembled. The Lords Temporal are the people who are entitled to receive writs of summons to attend the House of Lords in right of a peerage. The Lords Spiritual are the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishops of London, Winchester and Durham, and the twenty-one longest-serving bishops of the Church of England from among the other bishops, who are all entitled to receive writs of summons in right of their bishoprics or archbishoprics.
The Lords Temporal greatly outnumber the Lords Spiritual, there being nearly 800 of the former and only 26 of the latter. As of December 2016, 92 Lords Temporal sit in the House in right of hereditary peerages and 19 sit in right of judicial life peerages under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876. The rest are life peers under the Life Peerages Act 1958.
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 ‘Lords 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’.
In Great Britain and Ireland, and in most countries that are members or former members of the Commonwealth, bishops may be addressed as “My Lord” or “My Lord Bishop” or “Your Lordship”, particularly on formal occasions. This usage is not restricted to those bishops who sit in the House of Lords. Indeed, by custom, it is not restricted to bishops of the Church of England but applies to bishops of the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church, and may be applied (though less commonly) to bishops of other Christian jurisdictions. However, in modern times, it has become more common to use simply the one word “Bishop”.
In the United States, bishops are addressed as “Excellency”.
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. Of the Germanic family there is the Dutch Meneer/Mijnheer/De Heer (as in: aan de heer Joren Jansen), German Herr, and Danish Herre. All three of these stem from a Germanic title of respect (in this case, from the Proto-Germanic root *haira-, “hoary, venerable, grey”, likely a loan translation of Latin seniorem). In other European languages there is Welsh Arglwydd, Hungarian Úr, Greek Kyrie, Polish Pan, Czech pán, Breton Aotrou, Albanian Zoti.
In several Indian languages there are have: Hindi Swami, Prabhu, Thakur, Samprabhu(Overlord) also words like Saheb or Laat Saheb from Lord Saheb were once used but have changed in meaning now, Telugu Prabhuvu, Tamil Koman, KannadaDore, Bengali Probhu, Gujarati Swami, Punjabi Su’āmī, Nepali Prabhu. Words like Swami and Prabhu are Sanskrit-origin words, common in many Indian languages.
Philippine languages have different words for “lord”, some of which are cognates. Tagalog has Panginoón for “lord” in both the noble and the religious senses. Its root, ginoo, is also found in Visayan languages like Cebuano as the term for “lord”. Ginoo is also the Tagalog root for Ginoóng, the modern equivalent of the English term “Mister” (akin to how Romance language terms like señor may be glossed as either “lord”, “mister”, or “sir”). Ilocano meanwhile employs Apo for “Lord” in religious contexts; it is a particle that generally accords respect to an addressee of higher status than the speaker.
“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. However, Bede wrote in Latin, and was described by Michael Lapidge as “without question the most accomplished Latinist produced in these islands in the Anglo-Saxon period”. He used an Anglo-Saxon phrase that indicated a noble, prince, ruler or lord to refer to God; however, he applied this as a gloss to the Latin text that he was producing, and not as a clear translation of the term itself. “Lord”, as a gloss to Old English dryhten, meant royal, ruler, prince, noble, and did not indicate a deity. After the Norman invasion and the influx of French Catholics, this understanding began to be applied to religious texts as well, but that was during the later Middle Ages and not the early medieval period of Bede’s time. It was widely used in the King James Bible translated in the 17th century. See also Jesus is Lord.
- In English language Old Testament translations such as the King James Version, the Hebrew name YHWH (the Tetragrammaton) is usually rendered “the LORD“. This usage follows the Jewish practice of substituting the spoken Hebrew word “Adonai” (“My Lords”) for appearances of YHWH.
- Christianity: Jesus is called “Lord” in the New Testament.
- Islam: The English term “Lord” is often used to translate the Arabic term rabb (رب), used with respect to Allah (الله).
- Hinduism: In Hindu theology, the Svayam Bhagavan may refer to the concept of the Absolute representation of the monotheistic God. Another name more commonly used in Hindu theology is Ishvara, meaning “The Lord”, the personal god consisting of the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
- Semitic religions: Other deities given corresponding appellations to “Lord” include:
- Baʿal (“Lord”) was used by the Canaanites both as a generic term of address to various local deities and as the spoken name for the storm god Baʿal Haddu once the form “Hadad” became too sacred for any but his high priest to utter.
- Similarly, Tammuz came to be addressed as “Adoni” (“My Lord”).
- En meaning “Lord” as in Sumerian deities Enki and Enlil.
- Buddhism: Gautama Buddha is often called Lord Buddha.
- Jainism: “Lord” refers to the Mahavira.
- Nahuatl: the word “Ahau” is translated as “Lord” in reference to Aztec deities.
- Greece: Adonis was a form of the Semitic Adoni.
- Old Norse: The names Freyr and Freya have the meaning Lord and Lady.
- 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.
- Mormonism: it is believed that Jesus was the YHVH (Jehovah) of the Old Testament in his pre-mortal existence, and since that name is translated as “the Lord” in the King James Bible, in Mormonism “the Lord” refers to Jesus. Elohim, a separate individual who is the father of Jesus, is generally referred to by Mormons as “God” or “Heavenly Father”. (See Mormon cosmology for references.)
- 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
- Glossary of Manorial Terms, Manorial Society of Great Britain
- “Manors: manorial titles and rights (PG22) – Publications – GOV.UK”. www.landregistry.gov.uk. Retrieved 2016-08-23.
- Manors: manorial titles and rights (PG22)
- “Observations in passports – Publications – GOV.UK”. www.homeoffice.gov.uk. Retrieved 2016-08-23.
- “Archived copy”(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on 2017-06-26. Retrieved 2017-06-24.
- “Australian Passports Amendment Determination 2013 (No. 1)”. Federal Register of Legislation. Australian Government. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
- “Press Notice: Courtesy titles for Justices of the Supreme Court”(PDF). www.supremecourt.uk. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. 13 December 2010. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
- Larousse Dictionnaire de la Langue Francaise, Paris, 1979, p.1713
- “Online Etymology Dictionary”. etymonline.com. Retrieved 2016-08-23.
- 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.
One of the titles for God is Lord, a translation of Adonai. 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.
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