Esquire (abbreviated Esq.) is a term of British origin (ultimately from Latin scutarius in the sense of shield bearer via Old French "esquier"). In Britain, it is an unofficial title of respect, having no precise significance, which is used to denote a high but indeterminate social status. Esquire is cognate with the word squire, which originally meant an apprentice or assistant to a knight. Relics of this origin can still be found today associated with the word esquire. For example in the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, "Esquire" is today the most junior grade of membership. In the United States, the suffix Esq. most commonly designates individuals licensed to practice law, and applies to both men and women (in more modern times).
The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)
- Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 85-86.
- Esquire is neither a profession nor occupation.
- Martin, B., Perrins v. Marine, &c. Society (1860), 8 W. R. 563.
- When a man is asked if he is an esquire, and he answers that he is an esquire, the general understanding is that he is a person of no profession or occupation.
- Sir Alexander Cockburn, 12th Baronet, C.J., Perrins v. Marine and General Travellers' Ins. Co. (1859), L. T. Rep. (N. S.) Vol. 1, p. 27.
- Considering the laxity with which the title of Esquire has been used, as is the subject of remark by Sir Thomas Smith, in his days, as to the title of gentleman . . . the Court cannot take upon itself in this case to define, whether it has been improperly assumed.
- Sir William Scott, Ewing v. Wheatley (1814), 2 Hagg. Con. Rep. 183.
- These, Sir Edward Coke says, are all the names of dignity in this kingdom (alluding to the peerage, baronetage and knights), esquires and gentlemen being only names of worship."
- 2 Inst. 667. Steph. Comm. (9th ed.), Vol. 2, 617.
- The term esquire has no relation whatever to landed property.
- Willes, J., Jones v. Smart (1785), 1 T. R. 50.
- I know of no privileged class of society, and I do not know an esquire has any privileges a yeoman has not.
- Abbott, C.J., Case of Edmonds and others (1821), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 889.
- ( Esquires and gentlemen are confounded together by Sir Edward Coke, who observes, that every esquire is a gentleman, and a gentleman is defined to be one qui arma gerit. … It is indeed a matter somewhat unsettled, what constitutes the distinction, or who is a real esquire; for it is not an estate, however large, that confers this rank upon its owner.
- Steph. Comm. (9th ed.), Vol. 2, p. 618.
- Upon the best English authorities, yeoman is a title of courtesy.
- Chamberlain, J., Weldon's Case (1795), 26 How. St. Tr. 242.
- A yeoman is he that hath free land of forty shillings by the year; who was antiently thereby qualified to serve on juries, vote for knights of the shire, and do any other act, where the law requires one that is probus et legalis homo.
- Steph. Comm., Vol. 2 (9th ed.), 619.