bai·​li·​wick | \ ˈbā-li-ˌwik How to pronounce bailiwick (audio) , -lē- \

Definition of bailiwick

1 law enforcement : the office or jurisdiction of a bailiff (see bailiff sense 1a)
2 : the sphere in which one has superior knowledge or authority : a special domain (see domain sense 4) … concerns at the spy agency that the Pentagon is intruding into its traditional bailiwick.— Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti

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The first half of the word bailiwick comes from the Middle English word for "bailiff"—in this case, a term referring to a sheriff or chief officer of a town in medieval England, not the officer who assists today in U.S. courtrooms. Bailiff derives, via Anglo-French, from Latin bajulare, meaning "to carry a burden." The second half of bailiwick comes from wik, a Middle English word for "dwelling place" or "village," which ultimately derives from Latin vicus, meaning "village." (This root also gave us -wich and -wick, suffixes used in place names like Norwich and Warwick.) Although bailiwick dates from the 15th century, the "special domain" sense did not appear in English until the middle of the 19th century.

Examples of bailiwick in a Sentence

questions about organization of the fund drive are my bailiwick
Recent Examples on the Web His bailiwick is seamy realism, walking the edge of soft-core as lowlife exploiter Larry Clark did with Kids, but never transcending it. Armond White, National Review, 29 Dec. 2021 The Scripture says to feed the widows and the orphans and take care of those who can't take care themselves, and that is Skip Rutherford's bailiwick. Bill Bowden, Arkansas Online, 27 June 2021 So the Hoosiers just have to find an inside receiver who can make up for some of the playmaking in space that has been Philyor’s bailiwick. Jon Blau, The Indianapolis Star, 1 Apr. 2021 And so that's within their bailiwick to deal with that issue and the people of New York. CBS News, 14 Mar. 2021 Weaver’s bailiwick has been Republican candidates whose greatest interest seems to be criticizing other Republicans. Jack Butler, National Review, 22 Oct. 2020 Reardon's usual focus is on using data from pulsar timing arrays to search for nanohertz-frequency gravitational waves, so magnets are a bit out of his bailiwick. Steve Mirsky, Scientific American, 26 May 2020 Her bailiwick as a child was the violin, but her stage act also included singing, dancing and even an escape-artistry act. Giovanni Russonello, New York Times, 22 Feb. 2020 As for this past holiday season, one category that did well was smart home products, not typically Home Depot's bailiwick. Phil Wahba, Fortune, 2 Mar. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bailiwick.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of bailiwick

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for bailiwick

Middle English baillifwik, from baillif + wik dwelling place, village, from Old English wīc, from Latin vicus village — more at vicinity

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The first known use of bailiwick was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Bailiwick.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on bailiwick

Nglish: Translation of bailiwick for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bailiwick for Arabic Speakers


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