Friday, November 26, 2004

Etymology Today from M-W: purlieu\PERL-yoo\
1 : an outlying or adjacent district
2 plural : environs, neighborhood
3 : a frequently visited place : haunt
4 plural : confines, bounds

In medieval England if you were fortunate enough to acquire a new piece of land, you might hold a ceremony called a "perambulation," in which you would walk around and record the boundaries of your property in the presence of witnesses. If your land bordered a royal forest, there might be some confusion about where your land started and the royal forest ended. Luckily, the law said that if you performed a perambulation, you could gain at least some degree of ownership over disputed forest tracts, although your use of them would be restricted by forest laws and royals would probably still have the right to hunt on them. Such regained forest property was called a "purlewe" (or as it was later spelled, "purlieu"), which derives from the Anglo-French word for "perambulation."

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