• manor •
Pronunciation: mæn-êr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. The main house on a landed estate, usually a mansion. 2. A tract of land with hereditary rights granted by royal charter. 3. (Historical) The estate of a lord, a landed possession of a lord, including the lands which he governs.
Notes: The adjective accompanying today's Good Word is manorial. Should we decide to shift to a manorial system of government, we would manorialize the counties, as we did in the past. The phrase "to the manor born" began its life in the 17th century as "to the manner born", meaning "familiar with the customs of a place from birth". This phrase is now taken to mean "naturally suited for". Since manor and manner are pronounced identically, the spelling of this phrase has been confused since the middle of the 18th century. The BBC took advantage of this confusion with its TV series, To the Manor Born, implying that one is accustomed to living in lordly fashion.
In Play: This Good Word today usually refers to a large estate in the country or just a mansion: "When Norman Conquest made his millions, he spent it all on a manor in the country, complete with moat, which he stocked with trout." I suppose we should accept the phrase "to the manor born", now that it has taken up residence in all the major dictionaries: "Now Norman's children behave as though they were to the manor born—well, I guess they were, weren't they?"
Word History: This word comes to us from Old French maneir, manoir "dwelling, to dwell" from Latin manere "to stay, remain". This root may be seen in Greek menein "to remain", Persian mandan "to remain", and Armenian mnam "I remain", but the Germanic languages like English had to borrow the word from Latin and the Romance languages, all of which evolved from Latin. We see the same root in mansion, manse, remain, and permanent—all borrowed. (We see that P. G. Beck was to the manner of words born, for 'twas P. G. who suggested today's very Good Word.)