Definition of duke in US English:



  • 1A male holding the highest hereditary title in the British and certain other peerages.

    • ‘Even now I hardly care who it is whether it be a baron, a duke, an earl, or a lowly serf.’
    • ‘In one of the American cities she came across a man who was boasting because occasionally British dukes go to the States to find wives.’
    • ‘Besides, the duke and the duchess still had much to discuss with each other.’
    • ‘We're all expected to be there, and all the nobles will be there - lords, ladies, counts, viscounts, dukes, duchesses, barons, baronesses, and marquises; all of them.’
    • ‘Membership was limited to 600 and included five dukes, five marquesses and 20 earls, and the clientele would bet thousands at the tables.’
    • ‘Since the titles of dukes and marquises were restricted, earldoms became, in practice, the senior title.’
    • ‘But while England had nobles, it did not have a nobility; legally, the son of a duke or marquis could be only a commoner.’
    • ‘They all had expensive appointments and untold luxuries for the knights, lords, dukes and princes who served the king.’
    • ‘She was also introduced to several lords, dukes and soon to be counts and barons, who were her age.’
    • ‘He was suddenly attacked by dukes and duchesses and lords and ladies, all wanting to speak to him.’
    • ‘For most of my life I had assumed that some old feudal butchers who we lovingly refer to as earls and dukes had sanctified their bloodlust with the smell of flowers in the hope of perfuming out the stench of corpses.’
    • ‘Barons owned land, while dukes and duchesses (usually close relatives of the king) supervised the barons.’
    • ‘The castles of the rebellious barons were razed and the nobles never challenged the duke's power again.’
    • ‘But despite the commanders, the dukes, marquises knights and princes it is the common cateran who has left his mark.’
    • ‘The duke and duchess met key figures involved in the building and running of the health centre, before being taken on a guided tour of the facilities.’
    • ‘Similarly, the authority of marquesses, dukes, earls, barons, counts, and other nobles had long existed side by side with royal and imperial authority.’
    • ‘The servants of a duke or marquis had seven rows of curls on their state wigs, six on their house wigs and five on their carriage wigs.’
    • ‘What would you expect from a man whose ancestors were barons and dukes?’
    • ‘The dukes and earls have been sent packing from the House of Lords.’
    • ‘Pop stars, TV soap actors, footballers and celebrity chefs have taken the places of dukes and earls in our modern social pantheon, for better or worse.’
    noble, nobleman, peer, aristocrat, patrician, grandee
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1historical (in some parts of Europe) a male ruler of a small independent state.
      • ‘In 1236, he became an independent duke of Novogorod during a very hard period for Russia.’
      • ‘Austria was not a separate country as such at that period time, which was earlier than the modern nation states, and Germany was a collection of dukes and princes under an emperor who exercised a greater or lesser degree of authority.’
      • ‘From the seventh century the tribal duke became an almost independent sovereign.’
  • 2dukesinformal The fists, especially when raised in a fighting attitude.

    • ‘Then he began to push me about, so I said I would not go at all if he put his dukes on me.’
    • ‘She said a custodian at their building noted that when Affinity first moved into its current home in 1998, the women had one of two demeanors: They were visibly frightened or had their dukes up to fight.’
    • ‘There are things for which you have to put up your dukes and fight.’
    • ‘I've had my moments in the past - fortunately on very few occasions - where I've had to raise the old dukes as a means of self-defence; but I've always used force purely as a deterrent.’


[no object]duke it out
North American
  • Fight it out.

    • ‘While both teams in the gold medal game were guaranteed an Olympic berth, Puerto Rico and Canada were duking it out for the final berth in yesterday's consolation game.’
    • ‘It's potentially a contentious process, so, yes, people will be duking it out in various ways.’
    • ‘More than 24 million people watched the remaining six contestants duke it out.’
    • ‘One fun aspect of the ‘comments’ feature is watching my readers duke it out about various things.’
    • ‘Where once you could duke it out with a reader on the phone over the facts of story or slant of column, you now do so with pause when that reader is on e-mail.’
    • ‘If you want to duke it out with the big boys then start acting like one.’
    • ‘They're at it again, baseball owners and players, as if they didn't have enough money, duking it out off the field with a strike date set for August 30th.’
    • ‘What they know of fighting they've learned from watching highly-trained athletes duke it out in the boxing ring, and from movies.’
    • ‘Pseudo-intellectuals and pseudo-populists duke it out.’
    • ‘If the CIA and the White House really are going to duke it out here, it would probably be good for both sides - and for the country - if we at least had a neutral referee.’


Old English (denoting the ruler of a duchy), from Old French duc, from Latin dux, duc- ‘leader’; related to ducere ‘to lead’.