AskDefine | Define bailiwick

Dictionary Definition



1 the area over which a bailiff has jurisdiction
2 a branch of knowledge; "in what discipline is his doctorate?"; "teachers should be well trained in their subject"; "anthropology is the study of human beings" [syn: discipline, subject, subject area, subject field, field, field of study, study, branch of knowledge]

User Contributed Dictionary



From bailie and wick < wic.


  • , /ˈbeɪ.lɪ.wɪk/, /"beIlIwIk/


  1. The precincts within which a bailiff has jurisdiction, taken as a whole; the limits of a bailiff's authority.
  2. An area or subject of authority or involvement; a realm.
    • 1996 November 29, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
      By opening its doors to the needy for the first time on Thanksgiving yesterday, Le Mont joined several area restaurants in a charitable cause that has long been the bailiwick of churches and soup kitchens.


precincts within a bailiff has jurisdiction
  • French: bailliage
  • Swedish: verksamhetsområde
area or subject of authority or involvement
  • French: bailliage


Extensive Definition

A bailiwick is the area of jurisdiction of a bailiff. The term was also applied to a territory in which the sheriff's functions were exercised by a privately appointed bailiff under a Crown grant. The word is now more generally used in a metaphorical sense, to indicate a sphere of authority, experience, activity, study, or interest.
The term originated in France (bailie being the Old French term for a bailiff). Under the ancien régime in France, the bailli was the king's representative in a bailliage, charged with the application of justice and control of the administration. In southern France, the term generally used was sénéchal (cf seneschal) who held office in the sénéchaussée. The administrative network of baillages was established in the 13th century, based on the earlier medieval fiscal and tax divisions (the 'baillie') which had been used by earlier sovereign princes (such as the Duke of Normandy). (For more on this French judicial system, see bailli, prévôt and Early Modern France.)
A bailiwick (lang-de ballei) was also the territorial division of the Teutonic Order.
In English, the original French bailie was combined with '-wic', the Anglo-Saxon suffix meaning a village (cf. vicar), to produce a term meaning literally 'bailiff's village' - the original geographic scope of a bailiwick. In the 19th century, it was absorbed into American English as a metaphor for one's sphere of knowledge or activity.
The term survives in administrative usage in the Channel Islands, which for administrative purposes are grouped into the two bailiwicks of Jersey (comprising the island of Jersey and uninhabited islets such as the Minquiers and Écréhous) and Guernsey (comprising the islands of Guernsey, Sark, Alderney, Brecqhou, Herm, Jethou and Lihou). Each Channel Island bailiwick is headed by a Bailiff.
bailiwick in German: Ballei
bailiwick in French: Bailliage et sénéchaussée
bailiwick in Italian: Baliato
bailiwick in Low German: Ballei
bailiwick in Narom: Bailliage
bailiwick in Polish: Baliwat

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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