1) ‘Farm’ has the same etymology as ‘firm’ and developed from the medieval Latin word <i>firma</i> as the term for a fixed or ‘firm’ annual rent.

1528 To Mr Doctor Kellet for firme of his house, York. A tenancy was therefore ‘let to farm’, as in a lease of 1463 in which Robert Hopton was said to have graunted and lettyn to ferme certain lands in Rowley - the lessee gyvyng therfore yerely xiiijd. The quantity of land held in this way was known sometimes as a ‘farmhold’: John Smith of Pannal was owed money in 1511 for the farmehold remaining in the hands of the heirs of Thomas Smythe, his son. ‘Farmald’ and ‘farmold’ are typical early spellings of this word. The verb ‘to farm’ was also associated with the practice of paying a fixed sum for the right to take the profits or fees arising from an office or institution: in this way a corn mill, a rectory, or even a common bakehouse could be said to be ‘farmed’. Early examples of the occupational term had these meanings: 1379 Edward Cook, Farmour de Maner, Wakefield. In a lease of 1509, William Thorpe of Muskham referred to his lessee John Wood as my farmer and in 1607, Sir Richard Tempest, a powerful local gentleman, was described as the farmer of the rectory of Bradford. Eventually, by a departure from these original senses, a ‘farm’ came to be the estate held by such a rent, rather than the rent itself, and the man who held the estate was its ‘farmer’. The transition in meaning is evident in documents such as the manorial survey of Elmswell, where a typical entry reads: Thomas Webster’s Farm - 6 oxgangs with meadow and pasture Ł12 0s 0d. The Leeds Mercury of 2 May 1727 carried an advertisement for a Farm … between Berwick and Kiddall but added Note there’s no House on the Farm as yet . By then however the words were starting to be used in their modern sense: 1741 To be Lett. The Farm commonly call’d Lister’s Farm … consisting of a Messuage, Barn, Stable, Outhouses and 130 Acres, Leeds. ‘Farmer’ finally replaced terms such as ‘yeoman’ and ‘husbandman’.

spellings farmer farmhold
dates 1379 1463 1511 1528 1607 1624 1727 1741

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