One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A rent reserved by deed in favour of some person, originally one without incidents of tenure (such as fealty or relief or wardship) arising from it; (in later use, from the 16th cent.) one without a clause of distress in case of arrears.
Late 15th century. From Anglo-Norman rente sec, lit. ‘dry rent’ from rente + sec.
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