One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1(in Anglo-Saxon England) a man who held land granted by the king or by a military nobleman, ranking between an ordinary freeman and a hereditary noble.
- ‘It was widely believed by the common people that before 1066 the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of this country had lived as free and equal citizens, giving allegiance to kings, earls, and thanes democratically and conditionally.’
- 1.1 (in Scotland) a man, often the chief of a clan, who held land from a Scottish king and ranked with an earl's son.
- ‘He is more thane than prince, for his position here has always been that of able warlord.’
- ‘The room suggested men, and Margaret, keen to derive the modern capitalist from the warriors and hunters of the past, saw it as an ancient guest-hall, where the lord sat at meat among his thanes.’
- ‘In Scotland such shires were administered by a class of ministerial tenants known as thanes.’
- ‘Immediately afterwards comes the news that the king has created Macbeth thane of Cawdor.’
- ‘On Christopher Oram's darkly minimal set, Russell Beale's thane is similarly subtle - not the world's most obvious warrior, certainly, but one who has a quiet, coiled energy.’
Old English theg(e)n ‘servant, soldier’, of Germanic origin; related to German Degen ‘warrior’, from an Indo-European root shared by Greek teknon ‘child’, tokeus ‘parent’.
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