Esquire, Or Squire(Lat, scutifer, old Fr. escuier, a shield-bearer), originally a warrior armed with shield and javelin. Under the later Roman emperors the name was applied to soldiers to whom especially was assigned the defence of the palace and person of the emperor. The name was adopted in France, from the earliest period of the monarchy, to designate those holding the first rank in the army. In the ages of chivalry the rank of esquire followed that of valet or page, and was the last degree of apprenticeship before attaining the honor of knighthood. (See Chivaley.) In England the title of esquire strictly belongs by right of birth to the sons of younger sons of dukes and marquises; to all the sons of earls, viscounts, and barons; to the eldest sons of baronets and of knights of all the orders. The title is also given to the officers of the king's court and household; to the officers of the army and navy down to the captain inclusive; to doctors of law, barristers, physicians, justices of the peace while in commission, and the sheriffs of counties for life. The heads of many old families are also deemed esquires by prescription. But the title is now so generally bestowed that it has lost its strict technical value.
It is ordinarily used as a mark of respect in the superscription of letters in England and in the United States.