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

  • noun A historical subdivision of some northern counties in England, corresponding roughly to the hundred in other shires.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Formerly, in certain counties of northern, eastern, and midland England, a division or subdivision of a shire, generally corresponding to a hundred in other counties.

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

  • noun In some northern counties of England, a division, or district, answering to the hundred in other counties. Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Nottinghamshire are divided into wapentakes, instead of hundreds.

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

  • noun An administrative subdivision in northern English counties, developed under Norse influence, and corresponding to hundreds in the rest of England.


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

Middle English, from Old English wæpengetæc (translation of Old Norse vāpnatak, act of taking weapons to indicate assent in an assembly) : wæpen, weapon + -getæc, act of taking (from tacan, to take; see take).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English wǣpenġetæc, from Old Norse vápnatak, from vápn ("weapon") + taka ("take").


  • I remember seeing Tolkien use it in a military context, leading me to say, "Oh! He assumes wapentake is a kind of war counsel."

    Defending the Tolkien Snobs

  • As you seem to have intuited from your own research on your site, the exact meaning of wapentake is a little obscure.

    Defending the Tolkien Snobs

  • The people, in imitation of their ancestors, the ancient Germans, assembled there in arms; whence a hundred was sometimes called a wapentake, and its courts served both for the support of military discipline and for the administration of civil justice. [

    The History of England in Three Volumes, Vol.I., Part A. From the Britons of Early Times to King John

  • Tolkien seems to use only the modernized form; at least I haven't found an actual "wapentake" in my copy of LOTR, or in the few reference works I have taken out of storage; nor in "Unfinished Tales" or, or parallel passages "The History of Middle Earth."

    Defending the Tolkien Snobs

  • So what did Tolkien think that wapentake originally meant?

    Archive 2005-11-01

  • My aside on Tolkien's use of wapentake has led to some really interesting and substantive posts at Gypsy Scholar and Wormtalk and Slugspeak.

    Archive 2005-11-01

  • How many understand what Tolkien means by the wapentake, and how Tolkien's use of the term indicates what he thinks it must have meant?

    Archive 2005-11-01

  • Now (to forebare for ever solittle of Iris Trees and Lili O'Rangans), concerning the genesis of Harold or Humphrey Chimpden's occupational agnomen (we are back in the presurnames prodromarith period, of course just when enos chalked halltraps) and discarding once for all those theories from older sources which would link him back with such pivotal ancestors as the Glues, the Gravys, the Northeasts, the Ankers and the Earwickers of Sidlesham in the Hundred of Manhood or proclaim him offsprout of vikings who had founded wapentake and seddled hem in Herrick or Eric, the best authenticated version, the Dumlat, read the Reading of Hofed-ben-Edar, has it that it was this way.

    Finnegans Wake

  • He sat down on the little metal chair and opened the dictionary to the page he had carefully saved “wapentake…subdivision of certain counties…wapentake”.

    High School Confidential

  • Each tree is covered with the coats of arms of the great families of that time in the wapentake.



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  • On the subject of the derivation and definition of the word wapentake, the High School Confidential comment about family insignia is unquestionable. My own comment is simply an esoteric addendum. It involves James Joyce's use of wapentake in Finnegans Wake. You'll find the term on page 30, where Joyce draws the poor reader into an absurd account of the etymology of the main character's name. His first name is Harold or Humphrey, and we don't know which. If we even care to know, wapentake supplies a clue. The taking of family insignia is called heraldry. Yep, we move from obscurity to clarity by dint of a pun.

    April 14, 2019

  • "The five wapentake courts were administered by the steward of Middleham who, as bailiff, acted in place of the sheriff of Yorkshire in the liberty."

    —A. J. Pollard, Warwick the Kingmaker: Politics, Power and Fame (London: Hambledon Continuum, 2007), 113.

    April 22, 2014

  • Archaic; formerly used in North England and the Midlands. A subdivision of a shire or county corresponding to the hundred.

    March 28, 2007