General English



  • noun
    (written as Chancellor)
    the head of the government in Austria or Germany
  • noun
    (written as Chancellor)
    the main secretary of an embassy
  • abbreviationChanc.


  • (written as Chancellor)
    a hybrid grape variety grown in the eastern US and in Canada, producing a fruity, medium-bodied red wine

Origin & History of “chancellor”

Etymologically, a chancellor was an attendant or porter who stood at the cancellī, or ‘lattice-work bar’, of a court in Roman times – hence the Latin term cancellārius. Over the centuries the cancellārius’s status rose to court secretary, in due course with certain legal functions. The word came into English, via Anglo-Norman canceler or chanceler, in the time of Edward the Confessor, denoting the king’s official secretary, a post which developed into that of lord Chancellor, head of the English judiciary. The court over which he presides, Chancery, gets its name by alteration from middle English chancellerie, which came from an Old French derivative of chancelier ‘chancellor’.

The word’s ultimate source, Latin cancellī ‘cross-bars, lattice, grating’ (a diminutive form of cancer ‘lattice’), came to be applied to the part of a church or other building separated off by such a screen: hence, via Old French, English chancel ‘part of a church containing the altar and choir’ (14th c.). And a metaphorical application of the notion of a lattice or bars crossing each other has given English cancel (14th c.), via Latin cancellāre and Old French canceller, which originally meant ‘cross something out’.