[ 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.

Nearby words

  1. bailee,
  2. bailey,
  3. bailey bridge,
  4. bailey, liberty hyde,
  5. bailie,
  6. bailiwick,
  7. baillie,
  8. bailment,
  9. bailor,
  10. bailout

Origin of bailiff

1250–1300; Middle English baillif < Old French, equivalent to bail custody (see bail1) + -if -ive

Related formsbail·iff·ship, nounsub·bail·iff, nounun·der·bail·iff, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for bailiff

British Dictionary definitions for bailiff


/ (ˈbeɪlɪf) /


British 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 British (formerly) a high official having judicial powers
mainly US an official having custody of prisoners appearing in court

Word Origin for bailiff

C13: from Old French baillif, from bail custody; see bail 1

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 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