from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A court attendant entrusted with duties such as the maintenance of order in a courtroom during a trial.
  • n. An official who assists a British sheriff and who has the power to execute writs, processes, and arrests.
  • n. Chiefly British An overseer of an estate; a steward.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A legal officer to whom some degree of authority, care or jurisdiction is committed.
  • n. The steward or overseer of an estate.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Originally, a person put in charge of something; especially, a chief officer, magistrate, or keeper, as of a county, town, hundred, or castle; one to whom powers of custody or care are intrusted.
  • n. A sheriff's deputy, appointed to make arrests, collect fines, summon juries, etc.
  • n. An overseer or under steward of an estate, who directs husbandry operations, collects rents, etc.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A subordinate civil officer or functionary.
  • n. An overseer or under-steward on an estate, appointed to manage forests, direct husbandry operations, collect rents, etc. Also called a bailiff of forests, or bailiff in husbandry.
  • n. An officer of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem.
  • n. In London, an officer who supervises the inspection of fish brought into the city.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an officer of the court who is employed to execute writs and processes and make arrests etc.


Middle English baillif, from Old French baillis, baillif-, overseer of an estate, steward, from Medieval Latin *bāiulīvus, from Latin bāiulus, carrier.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Anglo-Norman and Old French bailif (plural bailis), Late Latin *baiulivus. Compare Modern French bailli (Wiktionary)



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