\ ˈthān How to pronounce thane (audio) \

Definition of thane

1 : 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
2 : a Scottish feudal lord

Other Words from thane

thaneship \ ˈthān-​ˌship How to pronounce thane (audio) \ noun

Examples of thane in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web 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 Pittman was forced into service earlier thane expected and played in every single game possible of his college career, even recording a 32-game reception streak between the 2019-2021 seasons. Evan Dudley, al, 6 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 Gregory Doran, which came to the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Conn., in 2000, with the marvelous Harriet Walter as the thane’s murderous wife. Ben Brantley, New York Times, 6 Dec. 2021 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 See More

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

First Known Use of thane

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

History and Etymology for thane

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.

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

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Cite this Entry

“Thane.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for thane

Thane geographical name

Tha·​ne | \ ˈtä-nə How to pronounce Thane (audio) \

Definition of Thane

town in the state of Maharashtra, western India, north-northeast of Mumbai population 1,841,500

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