: a free retainer of an Anglo-Saxon lord
especially : one resembling a feudal baron by holding lands of and performing military service for the king
: a Scottish feudal lord
thaneship noun

Examples of thane in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Rather than wait to share the witches’ paltering pronouncements with Lady M (Indira Varma) in person, the thane of Glamis chooses to send word to his wife in advance of his return from battle. Rhoda Feng, Washington Post, 14 Apr. 2024 Sam Gold, the director of a revival of Macbeth, performed the role of a Scottish thane on Thursday after the actor who played that role tested positive for Covid, the New York Times reported. Lisa Kim, Forbes, 15 Apr. 2022 Speculation has centered on Ross, Lennox (another thane) and even Macbeth himself in disguise. Los Angeles Times, 14 Jan. 2022 Denzel Washington plays the murderous thane, while Frances McDormand portrays his bloodthirsty, sleepwalking wife, hellbent on Macbeth becoming King of Scotland. Kory Grow, Rolling Stone, 14 Jan. 2022 Fahey's swaggering thane falls apart easily once unmoored from his previous stance as a noble defender of Jack Hickey's Duncan. Kerry Reid,, 26 June 2017 It was settled 1,000 years ago, give or take, when the king gave land to one of his thanes, Earl Aelfheah. Jennifer Moses, New York Times, 7 July 2016

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'thane.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English theyn, thayn (early Scots thayne, thane) "man, servant, noble holding land in exchange for service, retainer," going back to Old English þegn, þegen "servant, attendant, retainer, warrior, thane," going back to Germanic *þegna- (whence also Old Saxon thegan, degan "boy, servant, man, follower of a nobleman, warrior," Old High German, "young man, warrior, hero, member of a lord's retinue," Old Norse þegn "man, freeman, retainer, subject"), of uncertain origin

Note: The traditional etymology for this Germanic word sees it as cognate with Greek téknon "child, young of an animal" (see dystocia), thereby assuming that the meaning "boy" or "youth" is primary. The comparison has been rejected recently on the grounds that a proto-form *tek-no- would yield either *þehna- or *þekka- in Germanic (depending on the position of the accent), not *þegna-. Guus Kroonen (Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic, Brill, 2013) suggests a derivation from Germanic *þegjan- "to request, entreat," though it would require the sense "man owing his status to a superior, retainer" to be primary and the senses "boy, youth, man" to be secondary—a progression not usually found with semantically similar words.

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of thane was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near thane

Cite this Entry

“Thane.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a man in England during the Middle Ages who received lands from the king in return for military service
: a lord in Scotland during the Middle Ages

Geographical Definition


geographical name

Tha·​ne ˈtä-nə How to pronounce Thane (audio)
town in the state of Maharashtra, western India, north-northeast of Mumbai population 1,841,500

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