AskDefine | Define nobility

Dictionary Definition



1 a privileged class holding hereditary titles [syn: aristocracy]
2 the quality of being exalted in character or ideals or conduct [syn: magnanimousness, grandeur]
3 the state of being of noble birth [syn: noblesse]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A noble or privileged social class, historically accompanied by a hereditary title; aristocracy.


noble or privileged social class

Extensive Definition

otheruses Noble Nobility is a government-privileged title which may be either hereditary (see hereditary titles) or for a lifetime. Titles of nobility exist today in many countries although it is usually associated with present or former monarchies. The term originally referred to those who were "known" or "notable" and was applied to the highest social class in pre-modern societies. In the feudal system (in Europe and elsewhere), the nobility were generally those who held a fief, often land or office, under vassalage, i.e., in exchange for allegiance and various, mainly military, services to the Monarch and at lower levels to another nobleman. It rapidly came to be seen as a hereditary caste, sometimes associated with a right to bear a hereditary title and, for example in pre-revolutionary France, enjoying fiscal and other privileges. Today, in most countries, "noble status" is a purely honorary dignity that confers no legal privileges; an important exception is the United Kingdom, where certain titles - titles of the peerage, until recently, guaranteed a seat in the Upper House of the UK Parliament; hence its name, House of Lords - still confer some residual privileges.
Nobility is a historical, social and often legal notion, which should not be confused with socio-economic status which is mainly statistical based on income and possessions. Being wealthy or influential does not automatically make one a noble, nor are all nobles wealthy and influential (aristocratic families have lost their fortunes in various ways, and the concept of the 'poor nobleman' is almost as old as nobility itself).
Countries without a feudal tradition do not have a nobility as such. Various republics, including forms of address.

Western nobility

| gjak i kaltër(djak i kalteur) |---- |Bulgarian | синя кръв (sinya krăv) |---- |Czech | modrá krev |---- |Croatian | plava krv |---- |Danish | blåt blod |---- |Estonian | sinivereline |---- |French | sang bleu |---- |Dutch | blauw bloed |---- |Finnish | siniverisyys |---- |German | blaues Blut |---- |Greek | γαλαζοαίματος (galazoaímatos) |---- |Hungarian | kékvérű |---- |Italian | sangue blu |---- |Lithuanian | mėlynas kraujas |---- |Macedonian | сина крв |---- |Maltese | demm blu |---- |Norwegian | blått blod or blåblodig |---- |Persian | Najabat or نجابت |---- |Polish | błękitna krew |---- |Portuguese | sangue azul |---- |Romanian | sânge albastru |---- |Russian | голубая кровь (golubaya krov’) |---- |Serbian | плава крв (plava krv) |---- |Slovak | modrá krv |---- |Slovenian | modra kri |---- |Spanish | sangre azul |---- |Swedish | blått blod |}
In France, influential high bourgeois, most particularly the members of the parlements (courts of justice), obtained noble titles from the king. The old nobility of military origin, the noblesse d'épée ("nobility of the sword") became increasingly irritated by this newer noblesse de robe ("nobility of the gown"). In the last years of the ancien régime, before the French Revolution, the old nobility, intent on keeping its privileges, had pushed for restrictions of certain offices and orders of chivalry to noblemen who could demonstrate that their family had enough "noble quarterings" (in French, 'quartiers de noblesse'), a reference to a noble's ability to display armorially their descents from armigerous noble forebears in each of their lines of descent to demonstrate that they were descended from old noble families, who bore arms that could be quartered with their own male line arms, and thus prove that they did not derive merely from bourgeois families recently elevated to noble rank (although historians such as William Doyle have disputed this so-called 'Aristocratic Reaction'. (W. Doyle, Essays on Eighteenth Century France, London, 1995). A noble could be asked to provide proof of noble antecedents by showing a genealogy displaying seize quartiers (sixteen quarterings) or even trente-deux quartiers (thirty-two quartering) indicating noble descent on all bloodlines back five generations (to great-great grandparents) or six generations (great-great-great grandparents), respectively. This illustrates the traditional link in many countries between heraldry and nobility; in those countries where heraldry is used, nobles have almost always been armigerous, and have used heraldry to demonstrate their ancestry and family history. (However, it is important to note that heraldry has never been restricted to the noble classes in most countries, and being armigerous does not necessarily demonstrate nobility.)
Nobles typically commanded resources, such as food, money, or labor, from common members or nobles of lower rank of their societies, and could exercise religious or political power over them. Also, typically, but not necessarily, nobles were entitled to land property, which was often reflected in the title. For example, the title Earl of Chesterfield tells about property, while the title Earl Cairns was created for a surname. However all the above is not universal; quite often nobility was associated only with social respect and certain social privileges. An example of the latter would be early 20th-century Polish nobility (szlachta) after their political, economic, judicial and religious privileges were abolished in 1921 and they remained only landed proprietors on the same legal basis as their landed-commoner neighbours. In the modern age, the notion of inherited nobility with special rights has become, in the Western World, increasingly seen as irrelevant to the modern way of life. The founding fathers of the United States rejected anything that could have helped in recreating a nobility; the French Revolution abolished the nobility and its special privileges (though some nobility titles would be recreated by Napoleon I and III, they were mostly honorific).
A list of noble titles for different European countries can be found at Royal and noble ranks. To learn how to properly address holders of these titles, see Royal and noble styles.
Some con artists also sell fake titles of nobility, often with impressive-looking documents to back them up. These may be illegal, depending on local law. They are more often illegal in countries that actually have nobilities:such as European monarchies. In the U.S., such commerce would be a form of fraud, but it would only victimize the buyer of the supposed titles and would not threaten an established class of nobles with enforceable titles.

Nobility in Eastern countries

Medieval Japan developed a feudal system similar to the European system, where land was held in exchange for military service. The daimyo class, or hereditary landowning nobles, had great social and political power. Like their European counterparts, they commanded private armies made up of samurai, an elite warrior class; for long periods, these held real power without a real central government and often plunged the country into a state of civil war. Although there are differences, the daimyo class can be compared to European peers, and the samurai to European knights, but with important differences, such as the distinction between the European code of chivalry and the Japanese code of bushido. These feudal titles and ranks were abolished in Japan with the Meiji Restoration of 1868 and replaced by the kazoku, a five-rank peerage system after the British example which granted seats in the upper house of the Imperial Diet, but this too was abolished in 1947, following Japan's defeat in World War II.
Many other non-Western nations have had noble or aristocratic classes of various kinds: these are so diverse that it is somewhat misleading to try to translate them all into western feudal terminology. For the feudal hierarchy on the Indian subcontinent, see princely state.
In some Islamic countries, there are no definite nobility titles, but the closest to that are given the title Syed or Sayyid. This exclusive title, given only to certain descendants, literally means, 'Sir' or 'Lord'. There are no special rights concerning the title: they are considered more religious than the general population, and many people come to them for first-hand religious questions.
In Iran, the nobility titles are Mirza, Khan, ed-Dowleh, Shahzada, etc... . Nowadays, these titles don't exist anymore, an aristocrat family can now being recognized by his family name (often derived from the post the ancestors had, considering the fact that family name in Iran only appeared in the beginning of the 20th century) .
In East Asia the system was often modelled on imperial China, the leading culture, where the emperor conferred degrees of nobility, which were not permanent but decreased a rank each generation. China had a feudal system in the Shang and Zhou dynasties, but the system gave way to a more bureaucratic system beginning in the Qin dynasty (221 BC). By the Qing dynasty, titles of nobility were still granted by the emperor, but served merely as honorifics: under a centralized system, governance in the empire was the responsibility of the Confucian-educated scholar-officials and local gentry.
In tribal societies, such as and the Polynesian Island states, the system of often (semi-)hereditary tribal chiefs can also be compared to a form of noble class; in Tonga, after Tongan contact with Western nations, the traditional system of chiefs developed into a Western-style monarchy with a hereditary class of barons, even adopting that English title.

Nobility by nation

For full categorized countries, see :Category:Nobility by nation; some other follow:
nobility in Min Nan: Hôa-cho̍k
nobility in Bosnian: Plemstvo
nobility in Bulgarian: Аристокрация
nobility in Catalan: Noblesa
nobility in Czech: Šlechta
nobility in Danish: Adel
nobility in German: Adel
nobility in Estonian: Aadel
nobility in Spanish: Nobleza
nobility in Esperanto: Nobelo
nobility in French: Noblesse
nobility in Western Frisian: Eallju
nobility in Galician: Nobreza
nobility in Korean: 귀족
nobility in Indonesian: Bangsawan
nobility in Italian: Nobiltà
nobility in Hebrew: אצולה
nobility in Georgian: აზნაური
nobility in Luxembourgish: Adel
nobility in Dutch: Adel
nobility in Japanese: 貴族
nobility in Norwegian: Adel
nobility in Norwegian Nynorsk: Adel
nobility in Polish: Szlachta
nobility in Portuguese: Nobreza
nobility in Romanian: Dvorianstvo
nobility in Russian: Дворянство
nobility in Simple English: Nobility
nobility in Slovenian: Plemstvo
nobility in Finnish: Aateli
nobility in Swedish: Adel
nobility in Vietnamese: Phong tước
nobility in Ukrainian: Знать
nobility in Chinese: 貴族

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Babylonian splendor, FFVs, aedileship, ancienne noblesse, archbishopric, archiepiscopacy, archiepiscopate, aristocracy, assured probity, augustness, authority, baronage, baronetage, barons, bigheartedness, bigness, birth, bishopric, blamelessness, blue blood, brilliance, chairmanship, chancellery, chancellorate, chancellorship, character, chiefery, chiefry, chieftaincy, chieftainry, chieftainship, chivalrousness, chivalry, class, cleanness, consequence, conspicuousness, consulate, consulship, courtliness, cream, deanery, decency, dictatorship, dictature, dignifiedness, dignity, directorship, distinction, elaborateness, elect, elegance, elevation, elite, eminence, emirate, episcopacy, erectness, errantry, establishment, estimableness, ethics, exaltation, excellence, fairness, fame, generosity, generousness, glory, good character, goodness, gorgeousness, governorship, grandeur, grandiosity, grandness, gravity, great heart, greatheartedness, greatness, greatness of heart, haut monde, headship, hegemony, heroism, hierarchy, high ideals, high life, high mightiness, high principles, high society, high-mindedness, honesty, honor, honorableness, idealism, illustriousness, immaculacy, importance, imposingness, impressiveness, influence, integrity, irreproachability, irreproachableness, justice, justness, kingliness, knight-errantry, knightage, knightliness, largeheartedness, lavishness, leadership, liberality, liberalness, loftiness, lordliness, lords of creation, lordship, luxuriousness, luxury, magistracy, magistrateship, magistrature, magnanimity, magnanimousness, magnificence, majesty, mark, masterdom, mastership, mastery, mayoralty, mayorship, metropolitanate, metropolitanship, moral excellence, moral strength, noble-mindedness, nobleness, noblesse, noblesse de robe, notability, note, old nobility, openhandedness, outstandingness, overlapping, papacy, pashadom, pashalic, patriarchate, patriarchy, peerage, plushness, pontificality, pontificate, popedom, popehood, popeship, poshness, position, power elite, power structure, prefectship, prefecture, premiership, presidency, presidentship, prestige, pride of bearing, pride of place, primacy, prime-ministership, prime-ministry, princedom, princeliness, princeship, principality, principles, probity, proconsulate, proconsulship, prominence, protectorate, protectorship, proud bearing, proudness, provostry, provostship, pureness, purity, rank, rectitude, rectorate, rectorship, regality, regency, regentship, renown, reputability, respectability, resplendence, righteousness, ritziness, royalty, ruling circles, ruling class, sedateness, seigniory, seneschalship, seneschalsy, sheikhdom, sheriffalty, sheriffcy, sheriffdom, shrievalty, significance, sobriety, solemnity, splendidness, splendiferousness, splendor, stainlessness, state, stateliness, sublimity, sumptuousness, supereminence, supervisorship, suzerainship, suzerainty, the Establishment, the Four Hundred, the best, the best people, the brass, the classes, top people, tribunate, unimpeachability, unimpeachableness, unspottedness, upper class, upper classes, upper crust, upper ten, upper ten thousand, uppercut, uprightness, upstandingness, venerability, virtue, virtuousness, vizierate, viziership, worthiness
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1