Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Esquire Definition:

A mostly informal title associated with those who practice law.

Related Terms: Barrister, Attorney

A title of the English peerage nomenclature and caste system, below a knight.

Burn's law dictionary:

"Esquire ... a name of dignity, next to the common title of gentleman and below a knight....

"To whomsoever either by blood or by place in the state, or other eminency, we conceive some higher attribute should be given that the sole title of gentleman, knowing yet that he hath no other honorary title legally fixed on him, we usually style him an esquire, in such passages as are required legally that his degree or state be mentioned."

The eldest son of a knights and other peers who must wait until, they inherit their father's title, are called Esquires. There are also esquires ex officio, given historically to those who hold positions of public trust, and extended on that basis to lawyers, barristers and attorneys.

In R v Brough, an individual agreed that he was a gentleman and not, as the legal claim against him referred, an esquire.

These words were transcribed from the lawyers at the time, including the attorney general:

"Esquire or gentleman ... all degrees below knight are degrees of worship only...

"(A) man may be esquire by his office. There is certainly a difference between an esquire and a gentleman.... A Barrister is an esquire by his office or profession."


  • Burn, Richard, A New Law Dictionary, Volume 1 (London: Strahan and Woodfall, 17892), page 317.
  • R. v. Brough, 1 Wils. K.B. 245; also at 95 E.R. 598 (1749)

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