Monday, April 2, 2012

What is a Warrant

Because I am curious about the terms we use frequently, particularly in a Masonic context, I like to know the origins or deeper meanings of words we use, sometimes lightly.  The word "Warrant" is one of these words.  Masonically, we understand that this can be a critical part of being deemed a regularly constituted lodge.  But what does the word mean?

With the same root (war) as "Warden", "Steward", "Ward", and "War", the term is interesting.  In Old French, the syllables Gu, and W seem to be almost interchangable, so we find many words having nearly the same meaning when those syllables are interchanged.

Warranty almost equals Guarantee if you think about it.  Warden is very similar to Guardian.  Likewise, Ward, and Guard have nearly identical meanings.  Given the importance the document has to the lodge, basically defending it's legitimacy, I can see why the term "Warrant" is significant to freemasonry.

Below is the excellent etymological definition of the word "Warrant" from the website, one of my new "go to" websites for information.

WARRANT,  a voucher, guarantee, commission giving authority.  (F.,—O.H.G.)   M.E. warant, Havelok, 2067, St. Marharete, ed. Cockayne, p. 8, l. 10.—O.F. warant, guarant (Burguy), later garant, 'a vouchee, warrant; also, a supporter, defender, maintainer, protector;' Cot.   Cotgrave also gives the spelling garent, 'a warrenter.'   In the Laws of Will. I, in Thorpe's Ancient Laws, i. 476, 477, the F. spelling is guarant, and the Low Lat. warantum and warrantum.   The suffix -ant is clearly due to the Lat. -ant- used as the suffix of a present participle; so that the orig. sense of O.F. war-ant was 'defending' or 'protecting.'—O.H.G. warjan, werjan, M.H.G. wern, weren, G. wehren, to protect, lit. 'to give heed.'—O.H.G. wara, M.H.G. war, heed, care.—WAR, to heed; see Wary.   Der. warrant, verb, M.E. waranten, K. Alisaunder, 2132; warrant-er, warrant-or, warrant-able, warrant-abl-y, warrant-able-ness.   Also warrant-y, from O.F. warantie, later garantie, 'garrantie, warrantie, or warrantise,' Cot., orig. fem. of pp. of warantir, later garantir, to warrant, guarantee.   Also guarant-ee (error for guarant-ie), q.v.   And see warr-en, war-is-on, garr-et. [†]
In the Laws of Will. I., we also find the spellings warant, warrant, §§ 45, 47.   Cf. also Anglo-F. warrantie, warranty, Year-Books of Edw. I. ii. 331, spelt garrantie, id. i. 11.


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