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[bey-lif] /ˈbeɪ lɪf/
an officer, similar to a sheriff or a sheriff's deputy, employed to execute writs and processes, make arrests, keep order in the court, etc.
(in Britain) a person charged with local administrative authority, or the chief magistrate in certain towns.
(especially in Britain) an overseer of a landed estate or farm.
Origin of bailiff
1250-1300; Middle English baillif < Old French, equivalent to bail custody (see bail1) + -if -ive
Related forms
bailiffship, noun
subbailiff, noun
underbailiff, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for bailiff
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "There is little merit in this confession," quoth the bailiff sternly.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The three distinguished characters were a spendthrift, a bailiff, and a dun.

  • Faix, he will, Mr. McKeon; so don't let him do it; I heard him telling the bailiff.

  • "May ye hang him up for it, bailiff Scroope," replied the Scot.

  • He was the bailiff Scroope, whom you put up to witness against me.

  • I understand, according to your theory, how a bailiff must be taught.

    The Economist Xenophon
  • And the bailiff will have things all his own way at Loreng for a year or two.

    The Great Hunger Johan Bojer
  • Presently a bailiff was seen pushing his way up through the crowd.

    Victor's Triumph Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth
British Dictionary definitions for bailiff


(Brit) the agent or steward of a landlord or landowner
a sheriff's officer who serves writs and summonses, makes arrests, and ensures that the sentences of the court are carried out
(mainly Brit) (formerly) a high official having judicial powers
(mainly US) an official having custody of prisoners appearing in court
Word Origin
C13: from Old French baillif, from bail custody; see bail1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for bailiff

mid-13c., from Old French baillif (12c., nominative baillis) "administrative official, deputy," from Vulgar Latin *bajulivus "official in charge of a castle," from Latin bajulus "porter," of unknown origin. Used in Middle English of a public administrator of a district, a chief officer of a Hundred, or an officer under a sheriff.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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