c. 1300 (early 13c. in surnames), "subordinate administrative or judicial officer of the English crown, king's officer in a county, hundred, or other local district;" also "keeper of a royal castle;" also "minor judiciary officer under a sheriff," who serves writs, etc.; from Old French baillif (12c., nominative baillis) "administrative official, deputy," from Vulgar Latin *baiulivus "official in charge of a castle," from Latin baiulus "porter" (see bail (n.1)). From early 14c. as "agent of a lord, overseer of an estate" who directs operations, collects rents, etc.; also used in Middle English of an elected official in a town.
updated on March 21, 2017