Definition of burgess in English:


See synonyms for burgess on


  • 1British historical An inhabitant of a town or borough with full rights of citizenship.

    ‘Although it gave no additional powers, it did change the title of inhabitants from burgesses to citizens.’
    • ‘This placed an onerous tax burden on townsmen (taxation had been extended beyond burgesses to resident non-burgesses).’
    • ‘In March 1340 he travelled to London on community business, to show proof to the city authorities that Lynn burgesses were exempt from murage exactions there.’
    • ‘No resident burgess is in anger to call a bailiff or wardemen by any name such as thief, knave, backbiter, whoreson, false, foresworn, cuckold, or bawd.’
    • ‘If one burgess had a complaint against another, he was expected to bring it before the town court, not to resort to any external legal authority.’
    inhabitant, resident, native, townsman, townswoman, householder, local
  • 2British historical A Member of Parliament for a borough, corporate town, or university.

    ‘The Return of the Names of Every Member… is the basic source for lists of parliamentary burgesses.’
    • ‘These include the most commonly studied groups: the executive (mayors and bailiffs) and parliamentary burgesses.’
    • ‘This new borough was also endowed with land, the income from which was used to pay the salaries of two burgesses at parliament.’
    • ‘But now it had been crushed by the knights of the shires and burgesses in Parliament assembled.’
    • ‘Try as she might, she could not persuade the knights and burgesses of the Commons to leave such royal matters to her.’
  • 3(in the US and also historically in the UK) a magistrate or member of the governing body of a town.

    ‘In the 15th century the Yelde Hall was erected and used by the bailiffs and burgesses of the town as a council chamber.’
    • ‘At Lynn in 1340 John de Swerdestone and Adam de Walsoken were elected collectors of the wool custom by the mayor and burgesses, as specified by the king.’
    • ‘More than 260 townspeople now belong to the institution and there are four grades; commoner, landholder, assistant burgess and capital burgess.’
    • ‘This created a form of town council (the corporation), made up of aldermen and chief burgesses, headed by a high bailiff.’
    • ‘Although illiterate, he was named one of the chief burgesses, then chamberlain, then alderman in 1565, and finally High Bailiff in 1568.’
    1. 3.1US historical A member of the assembly of colonial Maryland or Virginia.
      ‘Bacon won election to the burgesses, Virginia's upper house, but was arrested when he tried to take his seat.’
      • ‘As a burgess, "Loudoun" Lee served on committees dealing with "Propositions and Grievances," "encouraging Arts and Manufactures" and "Privileges and Elections."’
      • ‘He became a burgess, and supported the government during Bacon's Rebellion.’



/ˈbərjəs/ /ˈbərdʒəs/


Middle English from Anglo-Norman French burgeis, from late Latin burgus ‘castle, fort’ (in medieval Latin ‘fortified town’); related to borough.