148. Mayor Merino.


Holinshed will have the word Mayor to be derived from the hebrew mar, dominus. The ancient inhabitants of Franconia, he says, being descended from the old Hebrews, have retained many Hebrew words, either from the beginning, or else borrowed them abroad from other regions which they conquered. So, he continues, the head officers and lieutenants to the Prince in the cities of London and York for an augmentation of 288honours by an ancient custom (through ignorance what the title of mayor doth signify) have an addition, and are intituled by the name of lord mayor, when mayor simply pronounced by itself signifieth no less than lord without any such addition (Vol, 2, p. 298, ed. 1807). This is going a long way for an etymology which is to be found so near home. Even if it had travelled to us from the east it would more likely have come from the arabic mir or emir. Perhaps the old Leonese word merino is a mongrel diminutive of this title, likely enough to have been formed when the two languages were as it were running into each other. Mirquebir, the augmented title, was in use at Ormuz. Merino would be sufficiently explained by supposing it a diminutive grade. The opinion that it is derived from the sheep quasi marino I have elsewhere shown to be unfounded.

Mayor I supposed, as the reader will have perceived, came to us from 289Magister, or from Major through the French. But since this note was writing I have met with the word in the Laws of Hywel Dda, Maer. Wotton renders it Præpositus. Owen in his Dictionary derives it from Ma-er, but of the former of these words, he gives so wide and indefinite an explanation, that any thing may be derived from it. Terms of civil polity in the Welsh, are most likely of Roman origin. But when the word is found with such slight variations, in Hebrew, Arabic, the Keltic, and (as Holinshed implies) the Teutonic dialects also, the Roman word likewise must be supposed to have proceeded from the same primitive language.


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