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thane

or thegn

[theyn]
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noun
  1. Early English History. a member of any of several aristocratic classes of men ranking between earls and ordinary freemen, and granted lands by the king or by lords for military service.
  2. Scottish History. a person, ranking with an earl's son, holding lands of the king; the chief of a clan, who became one of the king's barons.

Origin of thane

before 900; late Middle English, spelling variant (Scots) of Middle English thain, thein, Old English thegn; cognate with Old Norse thegn subject, German Degen warrior, hero, Greek téknon child
Related formsun·der·thane, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for thane

thane

commonly thegn

noun
  1. (in Anglo-Saxon England) a member of an aristocratic class, ranking below an ealdorman, whose status was hereditary and who held land from the king or from another nobleman in return for certain services
  2. (in medieval Scotland)
    1. a person of rank, often the chief of a clan, holding land from the king
    2. a lesser noble who was a Crown official holding authority over an area of land
Derived Formsthanage (ˈθeɪnɪdʒ), noun

Word Origin

Old English thegn; related to Old Saxon, Old High German thegan thane
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

Word Origin and History for thane

n.

Old English þegn "military follower," also "servant, attendant," from Proto-Germanic *thegnas (cf. Old Saxon thegan "follower, warrior, boy," Old Norse þegn "thane, freeman," Old High German thegan, German Degen "thane, warrior, hero"), from PIE *tek-no- (cf. Sanskrit takman "descendant, child," Greek teknon "child"), from root *tek- "to beget, give birth to" (cf. Greek tekos "child, the young of animals," tokos "childbirth, offspring, produce of money, interest"). Also used in Old English for "disciple of Christ." Specific sense of "man who ranks between an earl and a freeman" is late 15c.

The modern spelling is from Scottish, where early 13c. it came to mean "chief of a clan, king's baron," and it has predominated in English probably due to the influence of "Macbeth;" normal orthographic changes from Old English ðegn would have produced Modern English *thain. Some historians now use thegn to distinguish Anglo-Saxon thanes from Scottish thanes.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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