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mar·shal (märshəl)
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n.
1.
a. A military officer of the highest rank in some countries.
b. A field marshal.
2.
a. An officer of the courts of the United States who performs various duties such as protecting judges, transporting prisoners, and apprehending fugitives.
b. A public official who performs various duties for the courts of a city, such as enforcing orders for money judgments or evictions.
3. The head of a police or fire department in the United States.
4. A person in charge of a parade or ceremony.
5. A high official in a royal court, especially one aiding the sovereign in military affairs.
v. mar·shaled, mar·shal·ing, mar·shals also mar·shalled or mar·shal·ling
v.tr.
1. To arrange or place (troops, for example) in line for a parade, maneuver, or review.
2. To arrange, place, or set in methodical order: marshal facts in preparation for an exam. See Synonyms at arrange.
3. To enlist and organize: trying to marshal public support.
4. To guide ceremoniously; conduct or usher.
v.intr.
1. To take up positions in a military formation.
2. To take form or order: facts marshaling as research progressed.

[Middle English, from Old French mareschal, of Germanic origin; see marko- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

marshal·cy, marshal·ship n.

Word History: The Germanic ancestor of Modern English marshal is a compound made up of *marhaz, "horse" (related to the source of our word mare), and *skalkaz, "servant," meaning as a whole literally "horse servant," hence "groom." The Frankish descendant of this Germanic word, *marahskalk, came to designate a high royal official and also a high military commandernot surprising given the importance of cavalry in medieval warfare. Along with many other Frankish words, *marahskalk was borrowed into Old French as mareschal in the early Middle Ages, when much of northern France was ruled by Frankish dynasties. Later, when the Normans established a French-speaking official class in England in the 11th century, the Old French term mareschal came with them. In the first known uses of the word in documents written in England, marshal was used with the meaning "farrier." (It was also recorded as a surname, and in the spelling Marshall, it still survives as such.) The word marshal eventually began to be used in a wider variety of meanings in Middle English, as it had been in Old French, and the term was applied in Middle English to high-ranking officers of the royal court and the courts of law.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

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