What is a laird in Outlander?

Outlander Season 1 -- Courtesy of STARZ
Outlander Season 1 -- Courtesy of STARZ /

Outlander Season 1 quickly introduces us to the title of laird. What exactly is a laird, and is it a real title in history?

There are a few terms in Outlander that are likely very new to you. One of those is “laird.”

We’re introduced to this term quickly. When Claire ends up in the past, she meets with Clan MacKenzie and is taken to Castle Leoch. That’s where she meets Colum MacKenzie, the laird of Castle Leoch. She then later learns that Jamie is the laird of Lallybroch.

Is this the equivalent of “lord” to the English? Was it a real title used for men of the time, or is this just something made up by Diana Gabaldon? Here’s everything you should know.

Outlander’s Laird is a real title

The title itself is very real. It was a generic name given to the owner of a long-established and large estate in Scotland. Laird ranks below a baron but above a gentleman. The title is very much the same as an Englishman calling himself the “lord of the manor.” The term laird is just the Scottish version of lord.

In Scotland, the laird would reside over the land. It was up to the laird to vote for his people, and he would collect rents from those who lived on the land. Think of it as being a landlord in that aspect.

It is important to note that like a lord of an English manor, the title laird is not a title of nobility. The title is purely tied to land.

It is still possible to gain the title “laird,” although it is not in the same sense as the past. There’s a current trend to buy tiny plots of land to become the laird of the place along with all the others who buy tiny plots of land from the same area. This is a preservation measure to protect historical grounds in Scotland (and even in other parts of the UK).

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