Why does master mean both 'one having authority' and 'a young boy'?
Merriam Webster definition of 'master':
- One having authority over another
- A youth or boy too young to be called mister
- The eldest son of a Scottish viscount or baron
Oxford Dictionary Online definition of 'master':
- A man who has people working for him, especially servants or slaves.
- A man in charge of an organization or group.
- A skilled practitioner of a particular art or activity.
- A person who holds a second or further degree.
- Used as a title prefixed to the name of a boy not old enough to be called ‘Mr’
- a. A title for a man of high rank or learning.
- b. The title of the heir apparent of a Scottish viscount or baron.
The definitions in italics are supplied for context, since that root might shed some light on the issue.
late Old English mægester "one having control or authority," from Latin magister (n.) "chief, head, director, teacher" (source of Old French maistre, French maître, Spanish and Italian maestro, Portuguese mestre, Dutch meester, German Meister), contrastive adjective ("he who is greater") from magis (adv.) "more," from PIE mag-yos-, comparative of root meg- "great."
As you can see, the word has both 'senior' meanings of a superior, someone who has mastered something, someone with a Master's Degree, etc. as well as the 'junior' meaning of a young boy, even though the roots are words like 'he who is greater'.
Also, the Oxford Dictionary Online includes 'A title for a man of high rank or learning' under the definition of 'a boy not old enough to be called ‘Mr’.' In fact, a man of high rank or learning is clearly different from the 'young' master - the man could even be teaching the younger 'masters' (think 'schoolmaster', 'headmaster', etc.)
- Why does 'master' mean both a man and a boy?
- Where did this juxtaposition of Oxford definitions come about?