[awl-der-muh n]

noun, plural al·der·men.

a member of a municipal legislative body, especially of a municipal council.
(in England) one of the members, chosen by the elected councilors, in a borough or county council.
Early English History.
  1. a chief.
  2. (later) the chief magistrate of a county or group of counties.
Northern U.S. Slang. a pot belly.

Origin of alderman

before 900; Middle English; Old English (e)aldormann, equivalent to ealdor chief, patriarch (eald old + -or noun suffix) + mann man1
Related formsal·der·man·cy, al·der·man·ship, nounal·der·man·ic [awl-der-man-ik] /ˌɔl dərˈmæn ɪk/, adjectiveun·der·al·der·man, noun, plural un·der·al·der·men.

Usage note

See -man. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for alderman

Contemporary Examples of alderman

  • Antonio French, a citizen journalist and alderman of the 21st ward in St. Louis, was also detained.

  • A New York alderman once said Petrosino “knocked out more teeth than a dentist.”

    The Daily Beast logo
    Who Really Murdered Joe Petrosino?

    Barbie Latza Nadeau

    June 24, 2014

  • Dirk Johnson on the real winners—including an alderman rooting for a weak mayor.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Rahm's Pain, Whose Gain?

    Dirk Johnson

    January 24, 2011

  • Nobody, that is, except the lawyer who brought the case, Burt Odelson—and, according to whispers at City Hall, Alderman Burke.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Rahm's Pain, Whose Gain?

    Dirk Johnson

    January 24, 2011

  • Rick Munoz, alderman of the 22nd Ward and an active Latino Caucus member, has called Emanuel a "political bully."

    The Daily Beast logo
    Rahm vs. the Left

    Adam Doster

    October 5, 2010

Historical Examples of alderman

  • “Thou art a good-hearted lad,” said the alderman with a hand on his shoulder.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • The alderman saw no reason to repent his decision, hastily as it had been made.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • Now, when the Alderman saw that strange round thing at his threshold he was afraid.

    Johnny Bear

    E. T. Seton

  • This hand was given to Alderman, who shot him, as his share of the spoil.

    King Philip

    John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott

  • An alderman present observed, "Then all the fat would be in the fire."

British Dictionary definitions for alderman


noun plural -men

(in England and Wales until 1974) one of the senior members of a local council, elected by other councillors
(in the US, Canada, Australia, etc) a member of the governing body of a municipality
history a variant spelling of ealdorman
Abbreviations (for senses 1, 2): Ald, Aldm
Derived Formsaldermanic (ˌɔːldəˈmænɪk), adjectivealdermanry, nounaldermanship, noun

Word Origin for alderman

Old English aldormann, from ealdor chief (comparative of eald old) + mann man
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 alderman

Old English aldormonn (Mercian), ealdormann (West Saxon) "ruler, prince, chief; chief officer of a shire," from aldor, ealder "patriarch" (comparative of ald "old;" see old) + monn, mann "man" (see man (n.)). A relic of the days when the elders were automatically in charge of the clan or tribe, but already in Old English used for king's viceroys, regardless of age. The word yielded in Old English to eorl, and after the Norman Conquest to count (n.). Meaning "headman of a guild" (early 12c.) passed to "magistrate of a city" (c.1200) as the guilds became identified with municipal government.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

alderman in Culture



A member of a city council. Aldermen usually represent city districts, called wards, and work with the mayor to run the city government. Jockeying among aldermen for political influence is often associated with machine politics.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.