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Burgess (title): Wikis

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Burgess is a word in English that originally meant a freeman of a borough (England) or burgh (Scotland). It later came to mean an elected or un-elected official of a municipality, or the representative of a borough in the English House of Commons.

It was derived in Middle English and Middle Scots from the Old French word burgeis, simply meaning "an inhabitant of a town" (cf. burgeis or burges respectively). The Old French word burgeis is derived from bourg, meaning a market town or medieval village, itself derived from Late Latin burgus, meaning "fortress"[1] or "wall". In effect, the reference was to the north-west European medieval and renaissance merchant class which tended to set-up their store fronts along the outside of the city wall, where traffic through the gates was an advantage and safety in event of an attack was easily accessible. The right to seek shelter within a burg was known as the right of burgess.[2]

The term was close in meaning to the Germanic term burgher, a formally defined class in medieval German cities, (Middle Dutch burgher and German Bürger). It is also linguistically close to the French term Bourgeois, which evolved from burgeis.

Ironically, the term is also related to burglar, though this developed in the opposite direction in terms of social respectability.

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