AskDefine | Define retinue

Dictionary Definition

retinue n : the group following and attending to some important person [syn: cortege, suite, entourage]

User Contributed Dictionary



From retenue, from retenue, past participle of retenir


  • a RP /ˈrɛt.ɪ.njuː/, /"rEt.I.nju:/
  • a US /ˈrɛtɪnuː/|/ˈrɛtɪnjuː/
  • ,


  1. A group of servants or attendants, especially of someone considered important.
    the queen’s retinues
  2. A service relationship.


group of servants
  • Dutch: gevolg, hofhouding, hofstoet
  • Polish: świta
service relationship

Extensive Definition

A retinue is a body of persons "retained" in the service of a noble or royal personage, a suite (literal French meanings: what follows) of "retainers."


The word, recorded in English since circa 1375, stems from Old French retenue, itself from retenir also meaning 'to employ', from Latin retenere, hold back, retain.


Such retainers were not necessarily in the domestic service or otherwise normally close to the presence of their lord, but also include others who wore his livery (a kind of uniform, in distinctive colours) and claimed his protection, such as musicians and private teachers.
Some were a source of trouble and abuse in the 15th and early 16th century. Often their real importance was very different from their rank: on one hand, sinecures and supernumerary appointments allowed enjoying benefits without performing full service. On the other hand, 'having the ear' of the master can allow one to act as a confidant in an informal capacity; or in some cases, even as a spy under the guise of an innocent musician.
  • Sometimes used in the context meaning the supporters or followers of a medieval knight.


A retinue is sometimes confused with an entourage, which is the far less stable body of people that followed whether or not they were - or claimed to be - retained or protected by the prominent person they served.
For example, a prince's entourage would not only include professional courtiers, but also various bishops, clerics and other clerks, senior members of the aristocracy and other more occasional advisers, translators etcetera, who would often not be part of a sovereign's (more permanent) retinue, even though that could comprise a surprising variety of functions, from menial to lofty.

See also

  • The Roman Cohors amicorum was rather similar, and this use of the word cohort (derived from a battalion-size military unit) for a dignitary's 'friends' was the root of the Italian word corte 'court', which via the French cortège gave rise to cortege, which can also mean a train of attendants.


External links

retinue in German: Gefolge
retinue in Serbo-Croatian: Svita

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1