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

  • n. Journalists considered as a group; the public press.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A hypothetical fourth class of civic subjects, or fourth body (in Britain, after the Crown, and the two Houses of Parliament) which governed legislation.
  • n. Journalism or journalists considered as a group; the Press.

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

  • n. the press, including journalists, newspaper writers, photographers


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

The three (in England) estates were originally the three classes of people who could participate in government, either directly or by electing representatives – originally the clergy, barons/knights, and the commons (though they changed over time). Later the "three estates" were misunderstood as being the three governmental powers necessary for legislation: the Crown, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons; from there, the idea of a "fourth estate" was often used in satirical or jocular expressions, before developing a fixed association with the Press.


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  • Funny you should ask that, John. :-)

    December 11, 2007

  • Could there be a list here--numbered groups? The first world, the fifth column, seventh heaven...

    December 10, 2007

  • The clergy, the nobles, and the commoners.

    December 10, 2007

  • I know I should know, but remind me what the other three are, please!

    December 10, 2007