duke

Definitions

General English

  • noun a nobleman of the highest rank.

Politics

Publishing

  • noun an old paper size used for notepaper

Origin & History of “duke”

Duke is one of a wide range of English words which come ultimately from the Latin verb dūcere ‘lead’ (see (duct)). In this case its source was the Latin derivative dux ‘leader’ (ancestor also of Italian duce, the title adopted by the 20th-century dictator Benito Mussolini), which passed into English via Old French duc. In Latin the word signified ‘military commander of a province’, and in the so-called dark Ages it was taken up in various European languages as the term for a ‘prince ruling a small state’. Old English never adopted it though, preferring its own word earl, and it was not until the 14th century that it was formally introduced, by Edward III, as a rank of the English peerage. before that the word had been used in English only in the titles of foreign dukes, or (echoing the word’s etymological meaning) as a general term for ‘leader’ or ‘military commander’. The feminine form duchess (14th c.) comes from Old French, while English has two terms for a duke’s rank or territory: the native dukedom (15th c.), and duchy (14th c.), borrowed from Old French duche (this came partly from medieval Latin ducātus, ultimate source of English ducat (14th c.), a former Italian coin).
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