MASTER (Lat. magister, related to magis, more, as the corresponding minister is to minus, less; the English form is due partly to the O. Eng. maegister, and partly to O. Fr. maistre, mod. maitre; cf. Du. meester, Ger. Meister, Ital. maestro), one holding a position of authority, disposition or control over persons or things. The various applications of the word fall roughly into the following main divisions; as the title of the holder of a position of command or authority; as that of the holder of certain public or private offices, and hence a title of address; and as implying the relationship of a teacher to his pupils or of an employer to the persons he employs. As a title of the holder of an office, the use of the Lat. magister is very ancient. Magister equitum, master of the horse, goes back to the early history of the Roman Republic (see DICTATOR; and for the British office, MASTER OF THE HORSE). In medieval times the title was of great frequency. In Du Cange (Glossarium) the article magister contains over 120 sub-headings. In the British royal household most of the offices bearing this title are now obsolete. Of the greater offices, that of master of the buckhounds was abolished by the Civil List Act 1901. The master of the household, master of the ceremonies, master of the lung's music still survive. Since 1870 the office of master of the mint has been held by the chancellor of the exchequer, all the administrative and other duties being exercised by the deputy master.
At sea, a " master " is more properly styled " master mariner." In the merchant service he is the commander of a ship, and is by courtesy known as the captain. In the British navy he was the officer entrusted with the navigation under the captain. He had no royal commission, but a warrant from the Navy Board. Very often he had been a merchant captain. His duties are now performed by the staff commander or navigating lieutenant. The master-at-arms is the head of the internal police of a ship; the same title is borne by a senior gymnastic instructor in the army. In the United States navy, the master is a commissioned officer below the rank of lieutenant.
" Master " appears as the title of many legal functionaries (for the masters of the supreme court see CHANCERY; and KING'S BENCH, COURT OF; for masters in lunacy see INSANITY: Law, see also MASTER OF THE ROLLS, below). The " master of the faculties " is the chief officer of the archbishop of Canterbury in his court of faculties. His duties are concerned with the appointment of notaries and the granting of special licences of marriage. The duties are performed ex officio by the judge of the provincial courts of Canterbury and York, who is also dean of Arches, in accordance with 7 of the Public Worship 872 MASTER AND SERVANT MASTER OF THE HORSE Regulation Act 1874. The " master of the Temple " is the title of the priest-in-charge of the Temple Church in London. It was formerly the title of the grand master of the Knights Templars. The priest-in-charge of the Templars' Church was properly styled the cuslos, and this was preserved by the Knights Hospitallers when they were granted the property of the Templars at the dissolution of that order. The act of 1540 (32 Henry VIII.), which dissolved the order of the Hospitallers, wrongly styled the custos master of the Temple, and the mistake has been continued. The proper title of a bencher of the Inns of Court is " master of the Bench " (see INNS OF COURT). The title of " Master-General of the Ordnance " was revived in 1904 for the head of the Ordnance Department in the British military administration.
" Master " is the ordinary word for a teacher, very generally used in the compound " schoolmaster." The word also is used in a sense transferred from this to express the relation between the founder of a school of religion, philosophy, science, art, etc., and his disciples. It is partly in this sense and partly in that of one whose work serves as a model or type of superlative excellence that such terms as " old masters " are used. In medieval universities magister was particularly applied to one who had been granted a degree carrying with it the licentia docendi, the licence to teach. In English usage this survives in the faculty of arts. The degree is that of artium magister, master of arts, abbreviated M.A. In the other faculties the corresponding degree is doctor. Some British universities give a master's degree in surgery, magister chirurgiae, C.M. or M.Ch., and also in science, magister scientiae, M.Sc. The academic use of " master " as the title of the head of certain colleges at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge is to be referred to the frequent application of the term to the holder of a presiding office in an institution.
Master was the usual prefix of address to a man's name, though originally confined to people of some social standing. Probably under the influence of " mistress," it was corrupted in sound to " mister," and was abbreviated to " Mr." In the case of the puisne judges of the High Court " Mr Justice " is still used as the proper official form of written address. The Speaker of the House of Commons is also formally addressed as " Mr Speaker." In some Scottish peerages below the rank of earl, " master " is used in the courtesy title of the heir, e.g. the " Master of Ruthven."
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)