BAR'ON, noun [Latin vir, is doubtless the Shemitic, a man, so named from strength.]
1. In Great Britain, a title or degree of nobility; a lord; a peer; one who holds the rank of nobility next below that of a viscount, and above that of a knight or baronet. Originally, the barons, being the feudatories of princes, were the proprietors of land held by honorable service. Hence, in ancient records, the word barons comprehends all the nobility. All such in England had, in early times, a right to sit in parliament. As a baron was the proprietor of a manor, and each manor had its court-baron; hence the barons claimed, and to this day enjoy, the right of judging in the last resort; a right pertaining to the house of lords, or peers, as the representatives of the ancient barons, land-holders, manor-holders.
Anciently, barons were greater, or such as held their lands of the king in capite; or lesser, such as held their lands of the greater barons by military service in capite.
The title of baron is no longer attached to the possession of a manor, but given by the king's letters patent, or writ of summons to parliament; that is, the dignity is personal, and not territorial.
The radical word, vir, fir, a man, is Celtic, as well as Teutonic; but the word baron was not known in the British isles, till introduced from the continent under the Norman princes.
2. baron is a title of certain officers, as barons of the exchequer, who are the four judges who try cases between the king and his subjects, relating to the revenue. Barons of the Cinque Ports are members of the House of Commons, elected by the seven Cinque Ports, two for each port. These ports are Dover, Sandwich, Rommey, Hastings, Hythe, Winchelsea, and Rye.
3. In law, a husband; as baron and feme, husband and wife.