Definition of heriot in English:



  • A tribute paid to a lord out of the belongings of a tenant who died, often consisting of a live animal or, originally, military equipment that he borrowed.

    • ‘In addition, the heriot, that is the death duty paid to a lord when a thegn died, was set at four horses (two with saddles), two swords and a coat of mail.’
    • ‘And the heriot of the man who falls before his lord during a campaign, whether within the country or abroad, shall be remitted, and the heirs shall succeed to his land and his property and make a very just division of the same.’
    • ‘On top of this, the dutiful John Ronewyk carefully recorded a list of the ‘fines terrae’ owed by those replacing dead tenants, and the heriots (the best beast in the herd) of those heirs who took over from their dead fathers.’
    • ‘The serf also paid a variety of dues to the lord: the annual capitation or head tax (literally, a tax on existence), the taille (a tax on the serf's property), and the heriot (an inheritance tax).’
    • ‘At a similar date the king, Æthelred, refused to accept the heriot of the widow of Ætheric of Bocking, effectively refusing her right to take over her husband's lands as his widow.’


Old English heregeatwa, from here ‘army’ + geatwa ‘trappings’.