A folk Tale (tygerofdanyte) wrote in linguaphiles,
A folk Tale

The etymology of baron

I was reading a few of the WIkipedia articles on Tolkien's Legendarium and characters within.

The one that intrigued me was the article on Beorn and it listed his conception and etymology.

"In naming his character, Tolkien used beorn, the Old English word for "bear", which later came to mean "man" and "warrior" (with implications of "freeman" and "nobleman" in Anglo-Saxon society). It is related to the Scandinavian names Björn (Icelandic and Swedish) and Bjørn (Norwegian and Danish), meaning "bear". The word baron is indirectly related to beorn." ~ The concept and creation, Beorn, Wikipedia.

All of it sounds proper enough seeing that Beorn was a shapeshifter who took the shape of a black bear.

But the indirect relation to baron intrigued me.

etymonline's definition of baron gives us: "c.1200, from O.Fr. baron, acc. of ber "military leader," perhaps from Frank. baro "freeman, man;" merged with cognate O.E. beorn "nobleman." Baronet, with dim. suffix, first recorded c.1400."

Wiki's article on baron gives us "the word baron comes from Spanish barón, itself from Frankish baro meaning "freeman, warrior"; it merged with cognate Old English beorn meaning "nobleman."

My question is where did the OE word for beorn (bear) end up with implications of nobleman?

My supposition is that it is a cultural implication going back to the Saxons in that it deals with only the elite warrior being a freeman or a nobleman. However, as i am not at all versed in Saxon philosophy or history, I can only say this as conjecture based on pop culture and the faint remembrance of "intro to english linguistics."

What are your thoughts?
Arun K.

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