See also: Bailiff


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From Middle English baillif, baylyf, from Anglo-Norman and Old French bailif (plural bailis), probably from Vulgar Latin *bāiulivus (castellan), from Latin bāiulus (porter; steward), whence also bail. As a translation of foreign titles, semantic loan from French bailli, Scots bailie, Dutch baljuw, etc. Mostly replaced the role of native reeve. Doublet of bailo.





bailiff (plural bailiffs)

  1. (law enforcement) An officer of the court, particularly:
    1. (historical, Norman term) A reeve, (specifically) the chief officer executing the decisions of any English court in the period following the Norman Conquest or executing the decisions of lower courts in the late medieval and early modern period.
    2. (UK) A high bailiff: an officer of the county courts responsible for executing warrants and court orders, appointed by the judge and removable by the Lord Chancellor.
    3. (UK) A bound bailiff: a deputy bailiff charged with debt collection.
    4. (US) Any law enforcement officer charged with courtroom security and order.
    5. A huissier de justice or other foreign officer of the court acting as either a process server or as courtroom security.
  2. A public administrator, particularly:
    1. (obsolete) A king's man: any officer nominated by the English Crown.
    2. (historical) Synonym of hundredman: The chief officer of a hundred in medieval England.
    3. The title of the mayor of certain English towns.
    4. The title of the castellan of certain royal castles in England.
    5. The chief justice and president of the legislature on Jersey and Guernsey in the Channel Islands.
      • 2011 June 29, “The Bailiff of Jersey”, in States Assembly[1], retrieved 2013-03-03:
        The Bailiff of Jersey is the President of the States and acts as Speaker of the Assembly in the Westminster tradition. He is responsible for the orderly conduct of the States Assembly and its business. As Presiding Officer he has the right of speech – which is mainly exercised for ensuring the orderly conduct of the proceedings – but he cannot vote.
    6. The High Bailiff of the Isle of Man.
    7. (obsolete) A bailie: an alderman in certain Scottish towns.
    8. (historical) An appointee of the French king administering certain districts of northern France in the Middle Ages.
    9. (historical) A head of a district ("bailiwick") of the Knights Hospitaller; a head of one of the national associations ("tongues") of the Hospitallers' headquarters on Rhodes or Malta.
    10. (historical) A landvogt in the medieval German states.
  3. A private administrator, particularly
    1. (historical) A steward: the manager of a medieval manor charged with collecting its rents, etc.
    2. (historical) An overseer: a supervisor of tenant farmers, serfs, or slaves, usually as part of his role as steward (see above).
      • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter XIX, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC:
        Nothing was too small to receive attention, if a supervising eye could suggest improvements likely to conduce to the common welfare. Mr. Gordon Burnage, for instance, personally visited dust-bins and back premises, accompanied by a sort of village bailiff, going his round like a commanding officer doing billets.
    3. (historical, mining) The foreman or overman of a mine.
  4. (UK, slang) Any debt collector, regardless of his or her official status.

Usage notes


Although bailiff is the most common term in American English for the law-enforcement officers who provide security and maintain order in a courtroom, such officers are often formally known by other titles, which vary by jurisdiction.





Derived terms



The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

See also

  • reeve (earlier form of office)


  • Oxford English Dictionary, 1st ed. "bailiff, n." Oxford University Press (Oxford), 1885.