Definition of tanist in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈtanɪst/


The heir apparent to a Celtic chief, typically the most vigorous adult of his kin, elected during the chief’s lifetime.
Example sentences
  • While it was not the rule for the king to be killed by his tanist, it was not uncommon either.
  • Following the tanist in the hierarchy of the clan is the commander or military leader.
  • The chief usually named the tanist while he was living, and the individual bore the title during the remaining lifetime of the chief.



Example sentences
  • Generally, however, inheritance under Gaelic law was governed by tanistry, whereby land was, on the death of the lord, passed on to his successor by an elective process supervised by the ‘eldest and worthiest’ of his surviving kinsmen.
  • In the settlement of succession, the law of tanistry prevailed in Ireland from the earliest accounts of time.
  • The Tanist was the person next in succession to the Chief according to the laws of tanistry.


Mid 16th century: from Irish, Scottish Gaelic tánaiste, literally 'second in excellence'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: tan¦ist

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