from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Law Possession and use of one's own land.
  • noun Manorial land retained for the private use of a feudal lord.
  • noun The grounds belonging to a mansion or country house.
  • noun An extensive piece of landed property; an estate.
  • noun A district; a territory.
  • noun A realm; a domain.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Power; dominion; possession. See demain.
  • noun A manor-house and the land adjacent or near, which a lord of the manor keeps in his own occupation, for the use of his family, as distinguished from his tenemental lands, distributed among his tenants, originally called bookland or charter-land, and folk-land or estates held in villeinage, from which sprang copyhold estates.
  • noun Any estate in land.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Law) A lord's chief manor place, with that part of the lands belonging thereto which has not been granted out in tenancy; a house, and the land adjoining, kept for the proprietor's own use.
  • noun (Eng. Law) See under Ancient.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A lord’s chief manor place, with that part of the lands belonging thereto which has not been granted out in tenancy; a house, and the land adjoining, kept for the proprietor’s own use.

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

  • noun territory over which rule or control is exercised
  • noun extensive landed property (especially in the country) retained by the owner for his own use


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

[Anglo-French, respelling (probably influenced by French mesne, variant of Anglo-Norman meen, middle, in legal phrase mesne lord, lord who holds a manor of a superior lord) of Middle English demeine, from Anglo-Norman, from Old French demaine; see domain.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Anglo-Norman demeyne, demene et al., Old French demeine, demaine, demeigne, domaine ("power") (whence French domaine ("domain")), a noun use of an adjective, from Latin dominicus ("belonging to a lord or master"), from dominus ("master, proprietor, owner"). See dame, and compare demain, domain.


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  • In feudalism, land retained by the lord.

    August 25, 2008

  • I've never figured out how to pronounce this, so I checked the guide and it says di-meen, and that it is essentially the same word as domain.

    August 26, 2008

  • The best-known use is in Keats, and rhymes with 'serene'.

    August 26, 2008

  • And in South Carolina, the Register of Deeds is known as Register Mesne Conveyance. A nice archaic throwback one might expect from one of the 13 original colonies !! **lifting a glass of gin and tonic while enjoying boiled shrimp on the piazza overlooking Charleston Harbor, where, as every good South Carolinian knows, the Atlantic Ocean begins, being formed by the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers.**

    August 26, 2008

  • Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,

    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;

    Round many western islands have I been

    Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.

    Oft of one wide expanse had I been told

    That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne,

    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene

    Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold.

    —Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

    When a new planet swims into his ken;

    Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes

    He stared at the Pacific—and all his men

    Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—

    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

    - J. Keats, 'On First Looking into Chapman's "Homer"'.

    September 17, 2008

  • It's a great word, and a lovely poem. Thanks qroqqa and bilby! I believe there is a book by the Russian poet Marina Tsvetayeva that was translated into English as The Demesne of the Swans or maybe of the Swan. Can't remember.

    Btw, I think Keats got his exploration history wrong. Doesn't "Darien" refer to Panama? If so, the explorer would have been Balboa, not Cortez.

    September 17, 2008

  • From p. 39 of Patrick Leigh Fermor's "A Time to Keep Silence":

    I spent much of my limitless leisure walking in the country round the Abbey. The forested hills of the demesne are cut up into long zig-zag rides, tunnels of beech that converge upon moss-covered urns supported by a single Doric pillar.

    January 21, 2014