Definition of bailiff in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈbālif/


1North American An official in a court of law who keeps order, looks after prisoners, etc.
Example sentences
  • He added: ‘If they still fail to leave, county court bailiffs will be sent to evict them with police back up if necessary.’
  • Gloucester ordered the bailiff to open the gates and behind the door was the most unlikely of persons.
  • Byrd toiled as a bailiff in Brooklyn during the late 1980s, guarding family court judges including Sheindlin.
2chiefly British A sheriff’s officer who executes writs and processes and carries out distraints and arrests.
Example sentences
  • It is correct that at anytime they may seek to enforce their order for possession and, if they have it, execute a warrant for possession by instructing the bailiffs to carry out the warrant.
  • In those circumstances, the police officers were not justified in arresting the bailiff on the ground that he declined to accede to their request that he should leave the building he had lawfully entered.
  • Following his incitement Kelly was taken into custody by a bailiff from the county sheriff's office but was subsequently released on a $50,000 personal recognisance bond.
2.1British The agent or steward of a landlord.
Example sentences
  • The landlord took his estates into his own hands, appointed bailiffs and reeves to run them and sell the surplus on the open market.
  • Thieves are posing as bailiffs to break into people's homes to steal TVs and furniture.
  • A stern faced agent accompanied by red-coats and bailiffs, complete with battering ram came to a wayside cottage and preceded to evict the poor tenants but not without some stern resistance.


Middle English: from Old French baillif, inflected form of bailli, based on Latin bajulus 'carrier, manager'.

Words that rhyme with bailiff

calif, caliph

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: bail·iff

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.