Title of nobility, ranking in modern times immediately below a viscount or a count (in countries without viscounts). The wife of a baron is a baroness. Originally, in the early Middle Ages, the term designated a tenant of whatever rank who held a tenure of barony direct from the king. Gradually, it came to mean a powerful personage, and therefore a magnate. The rights and title may be conferred for military or other honorable service.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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