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A lord is one who has power and authority. It can have different meanings depending on the context of use.
The etymology of the English word lord goes back to Old English hlaf-weard (loaf-guardian) -- reflecting the Germanic tribal custom of a superior providing food for his followers. The female equivalent, Lady, may come from words meaning "loaf-kneader".
With a definite article and capitalisation, "The Lord" (Hebrew Adonai, Greek Kyrios, Latin Dominus) serves as an epithet of Yahweh, the God of the Jews and Christians. Christians also use the phrase "Our Lord" (or "The Lord") with reference to Jesus.
Note the general capitalisation of the word "Lord" in the religious context. In many English-language speech communities, the religious usage of "Lord" predominates today, as Christianity (for example) has established itself and thrived in many social environments where formal feudal-like class structures have become deprecated.
In feudalism, a lord (French: seigneur) has aristocratic rank and claims dominion over a portion of land and the produce and labour of the serfs living thereon. Such lords normally inherit their position and theoretically expect allegiance similar to that owed to a monarch.
As part of the heritage of feudalism, the word lord can generally refer to superiors of many kinds, e.g. "landlord". In many cultures in Europe the equivalent term serves as a general title of address equivalent to the English "Mr" (Italian Signore, German Herr) or to the English formal "you" (Polish Pan). Compare "gentleman".
In the United Kingdom, the House of Lords - commonly known as "the Lords" - forms the upper house of Parliament. Until recently many hereditary lords (particularly English lords - as opposed to Scottish and Irish lords - had automatic membership of the House of Lords - but see House of Lords Act 1999.
Five ranks of peer exist in the UK, namely Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, and Baron; and all male peers except dukes may use the style "Lord X". The title "Lord" also applies by courtesy to certain of their children, e.g. the younger sons of dukes and marquesses can use the style "Lord (firstname) (lastname)". Many Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts and Barons use the style "Lord (title)"; for example, Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, commonly known as "Lord Tennyson". Barons, in particular, are almost never referred to as anything but "Lord X". In the Peerage of Scotland, the members of the lowest level of the peerage have the title "Lord of Parliament" rather than "Baron".
Senior judges use the title "Lord":
- the Law Lords or "Lords of Appeal in Ordinary" who have the rank of life barons
- 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"
Various high offices of state may carry the cachet of honorary lords: thus we find titles such as Lord High Chancellor.
Another English title, that of "lord of the manor", does not connote peerage and does not carry parliamentary rights. The title merely marks the holder as the owner of a manor who has certain local rights. It carries no social marker.
- Lord Chancellor
- Lord High Treasurer
- Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
- Lord High Admiral
- Lord High Constable
- Lord Chamberlain
- Lord President of the Council
- Lord Privy Seal
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