pur·​lieu | \ ˈpərl-(ˌ)yü How to pronounce purlieu (audio) , ˈpər-(ˌ)lü How to pronounce purlieu (audio) \

Definition of purlieu

1a : an outlying or adjacent district
b purlieus plural : environs, neighborhood
2a : a frequently visited place : haunt
b purlieus plural : confines, bounds

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In medieval England, if you were fortunate enough to acquire a new piece of land, you would want to have as many ceremonies as possible to make it clear that the land belonged to you. To assert the extent of your land, you might hold a ceremony called a perambulation, in which you would walk around and record the boundaries of your property in the presence of witnesses. If your land bordered a royal forest, you might find that there was some confusion about where your land started and the royal forest ended. Luckily, the law said that if you performed a perambulation, you could gain at least some degree of ownership over disputed forest tracts, although your use of them would be restricted by forest laws and royals would probably still have the right to hunt on them. Such regained forest property was called a purlewe (or as it was later spelled, purlieu), which derives from the Anglo-French word for perambulation.

Examples of purlieu in a Sentence

the restaurant, the preferred purlieu of the theatergoing crowd, is always packed an hour or two before showtime we stopped at one of the several pubs in the purlieus of the stadium

First Known Use of purlieu

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for purlieu

Middle English purlewe land severed from an English royal forest by perambulation, from Anglo-French puralé perambulation, from puraler to travel through, measure, from pur- thoroughly + aler to go — more at purchase entry 1

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

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Cite this Entry

“Purlieu.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purlieu. Accessed 15 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for purlieu



English Language Learners Definition of purlieu

: the area surrounding a place


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