See also: Chancellor




Sir Thomas More, depicted in this 1527 portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger,[n 1] was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 1525 to 1529, and Lord High Chancellor of England from 1529 to 1532 (sense 1).
Angela Merkel was the Chancellor of Germany (sense 2) from 2005 to 2021.

From Anglo-Norman or Middle English chaunceler, chanceler, canceler (chief administrative or executive officer of a ruler; chancellor, secretary; private secretary, scribe; Lord Chancellor of England; officer of the ruler's exchequer; a high administrative or executive officer (for example, a deputy or representative of a bishop; the head of a university)), from Old French cancelier, chancelier (chancellor),[1] from Late Latin cancellārius (secretary; doorkeeper, porter; usher of a court of law stationed at the bars separating the public from the judges),[2] from Latin cancellī (plural of cancellus (grate; bars, barrier; railings), diminutive of cancer (grid; barrier), from Proto-Italic *karkros (enclosure), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *(s)ker- (to bend, turn)) + -ārius (suffix forming nouns denoting an agent of use).

The word was present as Late Old English canceler, cancheler, from Norman cancheler, but was displaced in the 13th century by the Old French and Anglo-Norman forms mentioned above.[2]





chancellor (plural chancellors)

  1. A senior secretary or official with administrative or legal duties, sometimes in charge of some area of government such as finance or justice.
    Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
    • 1533 September 6, Stephen Vaughan, “CCCLXXVI. Vaughan to King Henry VIII.”, in State Papers Published under the Authority of Her Majesty’s Commission, volumes VII (King Henry the Eighth. Part V.—Continued.), London: Printed by George E[dward] Eyre and William Spottiswoode, [], published 1849, →OCLC, page 502:
      The 6th daye after, the Duke beyng infourmyd of myne arryvayle, sent his Chancellour to myne inne, desyryng to knowe the cause of my comying tether; []
    • 1603, Thomas Rymer, Robert Sanderson, “De Liberatura pro Domino Cancellario Angliæ”, in Fœdera, Conventiones, Literæ, et Cujuscunque Generis Acta Publica, inter Regis Angliæ, [], 2nd edition, volume XVI, London: Per J[acob] Tonson, published 1727, →OCLC, page 541, column 1:
      We have in the Wiſedome and Dexteritie of, our right truſty and wellbeloved Counſellor, Thomas Lord Elleſmere, and for certen other eſpeciall Cauſes Us moving, have given and graunted unto the ſaid Thomas Lord Elleſmere the Office of our Lord Chauncellor of England, and given Aucthority to the ſaid Lord Elleſmere to heare examyne and determyne Cauſes Matters and Suytes as ſhall happen to bee, as well in our Chauncery as in our Starchamber, like as the Chauncellor of England or Keeper of the Greate Seale of England, []
    • [1746?] October 25, “Lettre sur Jean Faust, &c. That is, A Letter Concerning John Faust, Printer of Mentz. By a Librarian of Geneva. Geneva, 1745.”, in [Mark Akenside], editor, The Museum: Or, The Literary and Historical Register, volume II, number XVI, London: Printed for R[obert] Dodsley [], published 1746 (indicated on title page), →OCLC, page 106:
      But tho' this Family might make an honourable Figure at the Bar, yet it ſeems a little unaccountable how a Chancellor of the Bourbonnois came to be charg'd with the Reformation of the whole French Kingdom.
    • 1882 November 25 (first performance), W[illiam] S[chwenck] Gilbert, Arthur Sullivan, music, [] Iolanthe; or, The Peer and the Peri, London: Chappell & Co., [], published [1885?], →OCLC, act I, page 10:
      And everyone who'd marry a Ward / Must come to me for my accord, / And in my court I sit all day, / Giving agreeable girls away, / [] / And one for thou—and one for thee— / But never, oh never a one for me! / Which is exasperating, for / A highly susceptible Chancellor!
    • 1923, W[illiam] S[earle] Holdsworth, “English Law in the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries (Continued): Developments outside the Sphere of the Common Law (Continued)”, in A History of English Law, volume V, London: Methuen & Co. Ltd. [], →OCLC, part II (The Equitable Jurisdiction of the Chancellor), pages 235–236:
      The chancellor [i.e., the Lord Chancellor] is the king's delegate, accountable only to him for his use of his absolute power to purge the defendant's conscience. But we can see in the citation of cases and precedents the influence of the new school of lawyer chancellors. The usages and customs of the court are a law to the court. It is fairly clear that the process which will reduce to rule and system the occasions upon which the chancellor will interfere to purge a corrupt conscience, has not as yet gone very far; but we can see in embryo the beginnings of this process.
    1. (UK politics) Ellipsis of Chancellor of the Exchequer.
      • [1760, Edward, Earl of Clarendon [i.e., Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon], “Part the Second”, in The Life of Edward, Earl of Clarendon, Lord High Chancellor of England, and Chancellor of the University of Oxford. [], volume I, Oxford, Oxfordshire: At the Clarendon Printing-house, →OCLC, pages 111 and 112:
        [page 111] [] Lord Falkland [] took an Opportunity to tell the King, that He had now a good Opportunity to prefer Mr. Hyde, by making him Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the Place of Sir John Colepepper; [] [page 112] He [Colepepper] ſurrendered his Office of Chancellor of the Exchequer: And the next Day Mr. Hyde was ſworn of the Privy-Council, and Knighted, and had his Patents ſealed for that Office.]
      • 2019 July 5, “Philip Hammond: MPs will and should Stop No-deal Brexit”, in BBC News[1], archived from the original on 8 July 2019:
        Chancellor Philip Hammond has told the BBC he and other MPs will "find a way" of blocking a no-deal Brexit. [] Mr Hammond is expected to be replaced as chancellor whoever wins the Conservative leadership election later this month.
      • 2022 October 14, “Liz Truss sacks Kwasi Kwarteng before corporation tax U-turn”, in The Guardian[2]:
        Liz Truss has sacked Kwasi Kwarteng as her chancellor and replaced him with Jeremy Hunt ahead of a U-turn on key sections of her disastrous mini-budget, as she launched a desperate attempt to restore her crumbling political authority.
  2. The head of the government in some German-speaking countries.
    Synonym: (historical) Reichskanzler
    the Austrian Chancellor
    • 1913 December 13, “The Scandal in Alsace. Indignation of the Reichstag.”, in The North-China Herald and Supreme Court & Consular Gazette: The Weekly Edition of the North-China Daily News, volume CIX (New Series), number 2418, Shanghai: Printed and published at the offices of the North-China Daily News & Herald, Ld., →OCLC, page 783, column 1:
      In the Reichstag, the Imperial Chancellor, Dr. [Theobald] von Bethmann-Hollweg, replied to questions upon the Zabern incident in a tone of protest and anger which has not been heard since the Morocco debate. Half the House itself was seething with indignation against the Government.
    • 2003, Owen Chadwick, A History of the Popes, 1830-1914, Oxford University Press, USA, →ISBN, page 194:
      He was a moderate who wanted German unity and became Chancellor of Bavaria after the Prussian defeat of Austria.
    • 2018 October 29, “Angela Merkel to Step down as German Chancellor in 2021”, in BBC News[3], archived from the original on 30 June 2019:
      Germany's Angela Merkel has said she will step down as chancellor in 2021, following recent election setbacks. "I will not be seeking any political post after my term ends," she told a news conference in Berlin.
  3. (Christianity) A senior record keeper of a cathedral; a senior legal officer for a bishop or diocese in charge of hearing cases involving ecclesiastical law.
    • 1907 November 20, W. T. P., “The Consistory Court of St. Asaph”, in Bye-gones Relating to Wales and the Border Counties, volume X (New Series), Oswestry, Shropshire, Wrexham, Denbighshire: Woodall, Minshall, Thomas and Co.; London: Elliot Stock [], →OCLC, page 139:
      The Chancellor, as he is commonly called, who presides in the Diocesan Court, is appointed by the Bishop to the two ancient offices of Vicar General and Official Principal. When the Bishop, as was frequently the case, was absent from the Diocese, or for any other reason was unable to act in person, the Vicar General, as the name denotes, was his usual representative, while the exercise of his judicial authority he delegated to the Official Principal. For a long period of time the two offices have been always held together, and the Chancellor sometimes acts in one capacity and sometimes in the other.
  4. (education) The head of a university, sometimes purely ceremonial.
    • 1902, Frederick Douglas How, “The Marquis of Salisbury”, in Donald Macleod, editor, Good Words, London: Isbister and Company Limited [], →OCLC, section II (Oxford Days), pages 141–142:
      When the extremely arduous duties of the Prime Minister’s [Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury’s] political life are considered, it will be understood that, if the Chancellorship of the University entailed any serious amount of work, it would have been impossible for him to continue in the office. As a matter of fact, this is not the case. There are Chancellor’s Prizes which he gives, but he does not present them in person. There is a Chancellor’s Court to which University men may be summoned, but it is invariably presided over by the Vice-Chancellor, who is, in fact, the one really executive authority. Sometimes the Chancellor heads deputations to Court, and sometimes (but rarely) he comes to [the University of] Oxford to preside over some special function, when his weighty words are greatly valued.
  5. (Scots law) The foreman of a jury.
    • 1818 July 25, Jedadiah Cleishbotham [pseudonym; Walter Scott], chapter XII, in Tales of My Landlord, Second Series, [] (The Heart of Mid-Lothian), volume II, Edinburgh: [] [James Ballantyne and Co.] for Archibald Constable and Company, →OCLC, pages 285–286:
      "Have you agreed on your chancellor, gentlemen?" was the first question of the Judge. The foreman, called in Scotland the chancellor of the jury, usually the man of best rank and estimation among the assizers, stepped forward, and, with a low reverence, delivered to the Court a sealed paper, containing the verdict, []
    • 1826, Robert Bell, William Bell, “CRIMINAL PROSECUTION”, in A Dictionary of the Law of Scotland, 3rd revised and enlarged edition, volume I, Edinburgh: Printed for John Anderson & Co. [], and Bell & Bradfute, →OCLC, page 333:
      The verdict must be returned to the Court by the chancellor of the jury, in presence of the accused, and of the whole jury; and, being engrossed in the record, and read aloud, it is then sealed up, in terms of the regulations 1672, No. 9, and deposited with the clerk of Court, never to be opened again but by order of the judges. The verdict, when in writing, is authenticated by the subscriptions of the chancellor and clerk of the jury, and accompanied with a list of the names of the jurors, and a state of the vote of each individual, "whether condemning or assoilzieing;" Regulations 1672, No. 9.
    • 1853 July 16, Geo[rge] Dingwall Fordyce (reporter), James Paterson (reporter), William Gillies Tytler (reporter), Frederick Hallard (reporter), “James Mackenzie, Pursuer, v. Dunlop, Wilson and Co., Defenders.”, in Reports of Cases Decided in the Supreme Courts of Scotland, and in the House of Lords on Appeal from Scotland, [<span title=" [] Being a Continuation of The Scottish Jurist.">…], volume XXV, Edinburgh: M. Anderson and Co., [], page 558, column 2:
      [T]he pursuer moved the Court "for a rule to shew cause why this case should not be ordered to be tried, in respect that the verdict as it appears on the notes of the Judge furnished to the parties, was not declared by the chancellor or foreman of the jury in open Court, and taken down by the clerk of the said Court before the jury was discharged."
  6. (US, law) The chief judge of a court of chancery (that is, one exercising equity jurisdiction).
    • 1821–1822, “Virginia State Law and Regulations”, in William Griffith, editor, Annual Law Register of the United States, volume III, Burlington, N.J.: David Allinson, published 1822, →OCLC, paragraph VI (The “Superiour Courts of Chancery”), page 321, column 1:
      The state [of Virginia, USA] is divided into 9 chancery districts, in each of which a superiour court of chancery is held. There are 4 chancellors.
    • 1864, John Bouvier, “CHANCERY”, in A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America, [], 11th edition, volume I, Philadelphia, Pa.: George W[illiam] Childs, [], →OCLC, paragraph 3, page 219, column 2:
      In some of the states, as New York, Virginia, and South Carolina, the equity court is a distinct tribunal, having its appropriate judge, or chancellor, and officers.
    • 1985, “John Blair: Appointment as Associate Justice in 1789”, in Maeva Marcus, James R. Perry, editors, The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789–1800, volumes 1, part 1 (Appointments and Proceedings), New York, N.Y.: Columbia University Press, →ISBN, page 54:
      [John] Blair [Jr.] began his long judicial career when the state legislature—following the establishment of Virginia's judicial department in October, 1777—elected him one of five judges of the newly organized General Court. By 1779 he had become chief justice of that court, and, in November, 1780, he became chancellor of the three-member High Court of Chancery.

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Derived terms







  1. ^ chauncelẹ̄r, n.(1)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 2 November 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 chancellor, n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1889; chancellor”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading