One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
In Italy: (a title given to) any of various holders of public office at different periods, as a city governor, mayor, civic magistrate, or other municipal officer; specifically (a) the chief magistrate elected annually in medieval Italian towns or city-states and having extensive civic and judicial powers (historical); (b) a governor appointed by Frederick I (Holy Roman Emperor 1155–90, and King of Germany 1152–90) over one or more cities of Lombardy (historical); (c) (during the Italian Fascist regime 1927–43) an official appointed to administer a municipality.
Mid 16th century. From Italian podestà from classical Latin potestāt-, potestās power, authority, ruler, magistrate.
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