AskDefine | Define squire

Dictionary Definition



1 young nobleman attendant on a knight
2 an English country landowner
3 a man who attends or escorts a woman [syn: gallant] v : attend upon as a squire; serve as a squire

User Contributed Dictionary



scutarius: a shield-bearer through Old French esquire through Middle English esquire.



  1. A square; a measure; a rule.
  2. A shield-bearer or armor-bearer who attended a knight.
  3. A title of dignity next in degree below knight, and above gentleman. See esquire.
  4. A male attendant on a great personage; also (Colloq.), a devoted attendant or follower of a lady; a beau.
  5. A title of office and courtesy. See under esquire.


square; measure; rule.
armor-bearer who attended a knight
title of dignity
male attendant or follower
title of office and courtesy


  1. To attend as a squire
  2. To attend as a beau, or gallant, for aid and protection

Extensive Definition

In feudal or medieval times a squire was a man-at-arms in the service of a knight, often as his apprentice. In later centuries, the term's meaning shifted. Squires are often known in current day as wealthy landowning people in rural England.

Medieval usage

The English word squire comes from the Old French (modern French ), itself derived from the Late Latin ("shield bearer"), in medieval or Old English a 'scutifer].. The Classical Latin equivalent was , "arms bearer".You would have to be at the age of 14 to become a squire.
A squire was originally a young man who aspired to the rank of knighthood and who, as part of his development to that end, served an existing knight as his attendant or shield carrier. However, during the middle ages the rank of the squire came to be recognized in its own right and, once knighthood ceased to be conferred by any but the monarch, it was no longer to be assumed that a squire would in due course progress to be a knight. The connection between a squire and any particular knight also ceased to exist, as did any shield carrying duties.

Later usage

The term esquire

In the post-mediaeval world, the title of esquire came to belong to all men of the higher gentry; an esquire ranked socially above a gentleman but below a knight. In the modern world, where all men are assumed to be gentlemen, the term has correspondingly often been extended (albeit only in very formal writing) to all men without any higher title. It is used post-nominally, usually in abbreviated form: "Thomas Smith, Esq.", for example.
In the United States, this style is most common among attorneys, borrowing from the English tradition whereby all barristers were styled "Esquires". (Solicitors were only entitled to the style "Mr".)

Village squire

In English village life from the late 17th century through the early 20th century, there was often one principal family of gentry, owning much of the land and living in the largest house, maybe the manor house. The head of this family was often called "the squire."The squire was always there by the king's side to support and help him in battles and in hunts.
Squires were gentlemen with a coat of arms and were often related to peers. Many could claim descent from knights and had been settled in their inherited estates for hundreds of years. The squire usually lived at the village manor house and owned an estate comprising the village with the villagers being his tenants. If the squire "owned the living" (i.e. -- "was patron") of the parish church—and he often did—he would choose the rector, a role often filled by a younger son of the squire. Some squires also became the local rector themselves and were known as squarsons—a combination of the words squire and parson. The squire would also have performed a number of important local duties, in particular that of justice of the peace or Member of Parliament. Such was the power of the squires at this time that modern historians have created the term squirearchy. Politically, during the 19th century squires tended to be Tories whereas the greatest landlords tended to be Whigs.
The position of squire was traditionally associated with occupation of the manor house, which would often itself confer the dignity of squire. It is unclear how widely the village squire may still be said to survive today; but where it does, the role is likely more dependent upon a recognition of good manners, lineage and long family association rather than land, which, while relevant, is nowadays likely to be considerably smaller than in former years due to high post-war death duties and the prohibitive costs associated with maintaining large country houses.
In Scotland, whilst Esquire and Gentleman are technically correctly used at the Court of the Lord Lyon, the title Laird, in place of squire, is more common. Moreover, in Scotland Lairds append their territorial designation to their names as was traditionally done on the continent of Europe (e.g., Donald Cameron of Lochiel). The territorial designation fell into disuse in England early on, save for peers of the realm.
The linguistic and social development of squire is paralleled by that of the German junker, which originally meant "young lord" and denoted the poorer and unimportant part of the aristocracy, but "went up in the world" in much the same time as squire did in England.


The term 'squire' is sometimes used, particularly in cockney slang, by men when addressing another man. It is more often used in Scotland, particularly in Glasgow lecture theaters where the word is used for humor and as a sign of togetherness. In this context it is interchangeable with other slang terms such as 'mate', 'pal' or 'chum', but possibly less familiar (i.e. used when the person addressed isn't known to the speaker) and/or when there is an implied subordinate relationship to the person being addressed. This usage crops up frequently in comedy sketches by Monty Python, et. al. Example: "Yes squire, what can I do for you?". Certain "squires" are also known to use the expression to describe units of measurement, mainly metre "squired" (m2) which is recognized throughout the construction industry.

Squires in literature

The most famous squire in world literature, albeit as a caricature, is probably the babbling Sancho Panza.
In English literature, people usually remember Squire Trelawney, one of the many literary creations of Robert Louis Stevenson, a Cornish squire who protects young Jim Hawkins from the murderous pirates who are seeking his treasure map, and helps him engage a crew to sail to Treasure Island.
William Makepeace Thackeray's depiction of a squire in Vanity Fair showed the class to be lecherous, ill-educated, badly mannered relics of an earlier age. However, he clearly shows their control of the life of the parish.
There are numerous other squires in English literature. King Arthur in The Sword in the Stone was Sir Kai's squire as a boy. Others include Squire Hamley in Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters; the squire in The Canterbury Tales; and Squire Allworthy (based on Ralph Allen) in the novel Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, who was himself a squire and magistrate.
In the collection of short novels SMM7: Adventures of a Quantity Surveyor, Sir Hector and his gathering of associates, Rab Van Der Crab, Robberto, MCAP, Hamido Amigo, Large Ally, Obi Wan Shinobi and Verererek are known as the Squires. They often embark on fantastic adventures to far off lands, across the border and over treacherous waters. A trip to a mysterious island in Croatia is surely a possibility.
squire in Catalan: Escuder
squire in Czech: Zeman (šlechtic)
squire in Danish: Væbner
squire in German: Schildknappe
squire in Spanish: Escudero (historia)
squire in French: Écuyer
squire in Lithuanian: Ginklanešys
squire in Dutch: Schildknaap
squire in Polish: Giermek
squire in Portuguese: Escudeiro
squire in Russian: Оруженосец
squire in Swedish: Väpnare

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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