Origins of words and sayings

Among the many scraps of paper in my bulging folder of ideas for future writing projects is one for a novel set in Anglo-Saxon England, and some research I was doing recently gave me an idea for today’s posting.

There was no police force as such at a local level, but there was a post which was a sort of cross between law enforcement agent and administrator of justice. The holder of it was called a reeve, from the Saxon Gerefa. The reeve in a village or town was responsible to the head reeve for the country or shire. The old English for shire is scire (the Saxons pronounced it with a sibilant C: ‘shire’. In areas where Viking pronunciation was predominant, it would have a solid C. Hence Charlton/Carlton, Church/Kirk, which are Saxon and Viking variations of the same words.)

So, the head reeve for the county was the Scire Gerefa – which over the centuries became Shire Reeve, and eventually the word we know today: Sheriff.

About ramblesofawriter

Writer, thinker, tea drinker.
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