Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Job Titles from the Middle Ages

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Job Titles from the Middle Ages

Article excerpt

Esquire: a knight-wannabe

This title of courtesy for an attorney at law used to mean a shield bearer or a knight's personal attendant. Often, the esquires (or squires) were candidates for knighthood themselves.

Gradually, the name came to apply to any country gentleman who was a substantial landholder, who belonged to a social class just below a knight's. Esquires even served as magistrates in the English courts, which may explain how the title became fashionable among lawyers.

Swashbuckler: showy swordsman

This term for a dashing doer of great deeds came from the noise this swordsman made while in action. "Swash," meaning to dash against, was a word coined in the Middle Ages. A buckler, in the days of knighthood, was a small shield, used to deflect the blows of an adversary.

A swashbuckler could put on quite a noisy show, striking his opponent's buckler with his sword. From this aggressive, loud behavior came the name, which, in time, also suggested a swaggering showoff, with or without a sword.

Spinster: solo worker

This term's original meaning applied to the job of spinning, traditionally a woman's work. …

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