We Have Shire-Reeves, not Sharifs

February 13, 2018
by Staff Reports

I’m not Jeff Sessions’ biggest fan, but neither am I his biggest critic. When someone doesn’t like someone else, they usually think the worst of that person. Case in point is some criticism of what Jeff Sessions said yesterday.

The position of sheriff is an English office. The word sheriff is a contraction of the words shire and reeve. Most of us know that shire is another word for county. Some may not know that a reeve oversaw various functions in the English counties before there was organized law enforcement. Hence shire-reeve (sheriff); think the Sheriff of Nottingham chasing after Robin Hood.

No, the term certainly didn’t come from the word sharif, an Arabic word referring to nobility. Sheriffs were working individuals who answered to the nobility, but were not noblemen themselves.

So for those who think the word sheriff is Arabic, I have to ask: Did you sleep through English History 101? Or perhaps you never made it to college in the first place?

Thank you, Dr. Earl McGee!


BTW, we’ll throw in that 49 of our states have legal codes based on English common law; Louisiana’s laws are based on the French code. (Thank you, M.)

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