Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the title. For alternative meanings, see: Esquire (disambiguation)
Esquire (abbreviated Esq.) was originally a title for the sons of nobles and gentry who did not possess any other title. However, today the term is often used instead of Mr on official documents and in formal correspondence. It is linked to the word squire which refers to a knight's servant. There is no female equivalent for the social form although in the United States it is sometimes used professionally for female lawyers. The 1913 Webster's Dictionary gives the following definition of esquire:
- Es*quire" (?), n. [ OF. escuyer, escuier, properly, a shield-bearer, F. écuyer shield-bearer, armor-bearer, squire of a knight, esquire, equerry, rider, horseman, LL. scutarius shield-bearer, fr. L. scutum shield, akin to Gr. skin, hide, from a root meaning to cover; prob. akin to E. hide to cover. See Hide to cover, and cf. Equerry, Escutcheon.] Originally, a shield-bearer or armor-bearer, an attendant on a knight; in modern times, a title of dignity next in degree below knight and above gentleman; also, a title of office and courtesy; -- often shortened to squire.
The use of Esquire (as Esq.) became pervasive in the United Kingdom in the late 20th century, for example being applied by banks to all men who did not have a grander title. However, strictly the title only belongs to:
- The eldest sons of knights and their eldest sons in perpetual succession
- The eldest sons of younger sons of peers and their eldest sons in perpetual succession
- Those who bear special office in the Royal Household
- Sheriffs while in office.
- Justices of the Peace while in commission
- Commissioners of the Court of Bankruptcy
- Masters of the Supreme Court
- Deputy Lieutenants and Commissioners of Lieutenancy
- Queen's Counsel
- Royal Academicians
- Officers of the Royal Navy with rank of Lieutenant or higher, of the Army with rank of Captain or higher, or of the Royal Air Force with rank of Flight Lieutenant or higher
- Bachelors of Divinity, Law, or Physic, and others (note that these are all traditionally post-graduate degrees, not first degrees).
- Persons to whom the title is granted by the Monarch
In the United States, the title is commonly given in courtesy to lawyers and Justices of the Peace, and is often used in the superscription of letters instead of Mr. or Ms., for example "William Clinton, Esq.".
Historically in the UK, barristers-at-law used this title, while solicitors used the term "gentleman". In the U.S., where the roles of counsel and attorney were combined, the term "esquire" was adopted. There is some largely academic controversy over title of "esquire" and how it relates to the missing thirteenth amendment of the United States Constitution.
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