/bar"euhn/, n.
1. a member of the lowest grade of nobility.
2. (in Britain)
a. a feudal vassal holding his lands under a direct grant from the king.
b. a direct descendant of such a vassal or his equal in the nobility.
c. a member of the House of Lords.
3. an important financier or industrialist, esp. one with great power in a particular area: an oil baron.
4. a cut of mutton or lamb comprising the two loins, or saddle, and the hind legs. Cf. baron of beef.
[1200-50; ME < AF, OF < LL baron- (s.of baro) man < Gmc; sense "cut of beef" perh. by analogy with the fanciful analysis of SIRLOIN as "Sir Loin"]

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Title of nobility, ranking in modern times immediately below a viscount or a count (in countries without viscounts).

The wife of a baron is a baroness. Originally, in the early Middle Ages, the term designated a tenant of whatever rank who held a tenure of barony direct from the king. Gradually, it came to mean a powerful personage, and therefore a magnate. The rights and title may be conferred for military or other honorable service.
(as used in expressions)
Friedrich Leopold Baron von Hardenberg
Baron Adrian of Cambridge
Amherst Jeffery Amherst 1st Baron
Bach Alexander baron von
Baden Powell of Gilwell Robert Stephenson Smyth 1st Baron
Baltimore of Baltimore George Calvert 1st Baron
Berzelius Jöns Jacob Baron
Beveridge of Tuggal William Henry 1st Baron
Blackett of Chelsea Patrick Maynard Stuart Baron
Britten of Aldeburgh Edward Benjamin Britten Baron
Bülow Hans Guido baron von
Butler Richard Austen baron of Saffron Walden
Byron George Gordon Byron 6th Baron
Callaghan of Cardiff Leonard James Callaghan Baron
Carondelet Francisco Luis Hector baron de
Carson of Duncairn Edward Henry Baron
Cauchy Augustin Louis Baron
Cecil William 1st Baron Burghley
Clark of Saltwood Kenneth Mackenzie Clark Baron
Clive of Plassey Robert 1st Baron
Coubertin Pierre baron de
Cuvier Georges Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert Baron
De La Warr Thomas West 12th Baron
Baron Delaware
Dorchester of Dorchester Guy Carleton 1st Baron
Baron Dupuytren
Eichendorff Joseph Baron von
Ensor James Sidney Baron
Erskine of Restormel Thomas Erskine 1st Baron
Fairfax of Cameron Thomas Fairfax 3rd Baron
Fisher of Kilverstone John Arbuthnot Fisher 1st Baron
Florey Howard Walter Baron
Fourier Jean Baptiste Joseph Baron
Baron Haussmann
Holberg Ludvig Baron
Horta Victor Baron
Humboldt Karl Wilhelm baron von
Ismay of Wormington Hastings Lionel Ismay Baron
Jenkins of Hillhead Roy Harris Jenkins Baron
Jomini Antoine Henri baron de
Kelvin of Largs William Thomson Baron
Keynes John Maynard Baron Keynes of Tilton
Krafft Ebing Richard Freiherr Baron von
La Hontan Louis Armand de Lom d'Arce baron de
Leibniz Gottfried Wilhelm Freiherr baron von Leibniz
Liebig Justus Freiherr baron von
Baron Lister of Lyme Regis
Lister Samuel Cunliffe Baron Masham of Swinton
Baron Lloyd Webber
Baron Lugard of Abinger
Macaulay Thomas Babington Baron Macaulay of Rothley
Baron Moynihan of Leeds
Neurath Konstantin baron von
Nordenskiöld Nils Adolf Erik Frihere baron
Olivier Laurence Kerr Baron Olivier of Brighton
Pirquet Clemens baron von
Pufendorf Samuel baron von
Raglan of Raglan FitzRoy James Henry Somerset 1st Baron
Rank Joseph Arthur Baron Rank of Sutton Scotney
Rayleigh of Terling Place John William Strutt 3rd Baron
Reuter Paul Julius Baron von Reuter
Richthofen Manfred baron von
the Red Baron
Rokitansky Karl baron von
Rutherford of Nelson Ernest Rutherford Baron
Baron Snow of the City of Leicester
Stein Heinrich Friedrich Karl imperial baron vom und zum
Steuben Frederick William Augustus Baron von
Tedder of Glenguin Arthur William Tedder 1st Baron
Thomson of Fleet Roy Herbert Thomson 1st Baron
Turgot Anne Robert Jacques baron de l'Aulne
Wilson James Harold Baron Wilson of Rievaulx
Wolff Christian Freiherr baron von
Wrangel Pyotr Nikolayevich Baron
Acton of Aldenham John Emerich Edward Dahlberg Acton 1st Baron
Beaverbrook of Beaverbrook and of Cherkley Maxwell Aitken lst Baron
Baron Dalling and Bulwer of Dalling
1st Baron Lytton of Knebworth
Baron Home of the Hirsel of Coldstream
Freyberg of Wellington and of Munstead Bernard Cyril Freyberg 1st Baron
Holland of Foxley and of Holland Henry Richard Vassall Fox 3rd Baron
Humboldt Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander Freiherr baron von
Baron Lawrence of the Punjab and of Grately
Montesquieu Charles Louis de Secondat baron de La Brède et de
Noel Baker of the City of Derby Philip John Noel Baker Baron
Shaughnessy of Montreal and Ashford Thomas George Shaughnessy 1st Baron
Tennyson Alfred 1st Baron Tennyson of Aldworth and Freshwater
Ward Barbara Mary Baroness Jackson of Lodsworth
Baroness Blixen Finecke
Droste Hülshoff Annette Baroness von
Orczy Emmuska Magdalena Rosalia Marie Josepha Barbara Baroness
Anne Louise Germaine Necker Baroness de Staë l Holstein
Thatcher Margaret Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven

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 title of nobility, ranking below a viscount (or below a count in countries without viscounts). In the feudal system of Europe, a baron was a “man” who pledged his loyalty and service to his superior in return for land that he could pass to his heirs. The superior, sovereign in his principality, held his lands “of no one”—i.e., independently—and the baron was his tenant-in-chief. In early feudal times the baron in turn, in a process of subinfeudation, might have had his own subordinate barons. This practice was discontinued in England when King Edward I recognized the political and fiscal dangers it posed.

Great Britain
      In England the Norman kings assembled advisory councils of the more powerful barons. As these councils evolved into Parliaments larger numbers of barons, as well as representatives of the church, burgesses, and knights of the shires, were summoned to attend the meetings.

      The early baron held his lands, or barony, of the king; if the lands passed from his family they carried away the rank and the privileges of that rank: such barons were termed barons by tenure. After the concept of the peerage—those titled individuals who shared the responsibility of government—began to develop, those feudal barons by tenure who had received writs summoning them to the early Parliaments were considered to be ipso facto peers, barons by writ. Landless men who were created peers in anticipation of their contributions to the crown were termed barons by patent. Letters patent (grants made publicly) became the usual way to create new peers or to promote existing ones.

      Initially the distinction between barons by tenure and those who were the equivalent of peers was unclear. The rank was conferred along with the holdings in the feudal system, but through the hierarchy of feudal ranks the barons held baronies, the lords held lordships, and the earls held earldoms in the same relationship of fealty to the sovereign, in baroniam.

      The subsequent slow decline of the law-enforcing powers of the barons so reduced the importance of the baronies that the term baron became at one time in Scotland a synonym for freeholder, while in England the term became a title for those in the lowest rank of the peerage. Life peers, whose rank is not heritable, are styled baron. In Scotland today a baron is still one who holds a feudal rank, and the lowest rank of the Scots peerage, equivalent to the rank of baron in the peerages of England, of Great Britain, of Ireland, and of the United Kingdom, is lord of parliament.

      In 12th-century France the term baron, in a restricted sense, was applied properly to all lords possessing an important fief, but toward the end of the 13th century the title had come to mean that its bearer held his principal fief direct from the crown and was therefore more important than a count, since many counts were only mediate vassals. From this period, however, the title tended to sink in importance. In the 14th century the barons were ranked below counts and viscounts, though in power and possessions many barons were superior to many counts. In any case, until the 17th century the title of baron could be borne only by the holder of a territorial barony, and it was Louis XIV who first cheapened the title in France by creating numerous barons by royal letters. The creation of barons was later revived by Napoleon I, continued by Louis XVIII, Charles X, and Louis-Philippe, and revived again on a generous scale by Napoleon III. Since 1870 the tolerant attitude of the French republican governments toward titles, which are not officially recognized, has increased the confusion by facilitating the assumption of the title on very slender grounds of right.

      The German equivalent of baron, Freiherr, or “free lord” of the empire, originally implied a dynastic status, and many Freiherren held countships without taking the title of count (Graf). When the more important of them styled themselves counts, the Freiherren sank into an inferior class of nobility. The practice of conferring the title of Freiherr by imperial letters—begun in the 16th century by Emperor Charles V—was later exercised by all the German sovereigns.

      In the Middle Ages the Italian barons had extensive powers of jurisdiction within their domains and could inflict the death penalty. There was a right of appeal, but it was of little value generally and in Sicily and Sardinia was nonexistent. In the late Middle Ages the barons' powers became more extensive, especially in the south, and they had the right to mint money and wage private war. The title was recognized until 1945.

      In early medieval Navarre and Aragon barón described the senior nobility but later, perhaps under the influence of Castilian practice, it was displaced by ricos hombres— “rich men.” In Catalonia a baron was simply a magnate, but in the later Middle Ages he achieved a distinct status even more important than the French barons. Some nobles retained the title until it was abolished by the Cortes of Cadiz in 1812.

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Universalium. 2010.

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