Mentions of “Bear Arms” and “Bearing Arms” in 18th Century Dictionaries

The following chart shows the mentions of “bear arms” and “bearing arms” in 18th century dictionaries. If no mention was made, then the cell will be blank.

 A.
Dictionary
B.
“Bear Arms” Mentions
(U – non-military, M – military)
C.
“Bearing Arms” Mentions

(U – non-military, M – military)
1.A New and Complete Law Dictionary
By Timothy Cunningham

First edition
Volume I - 1764
Volume II - 1765

1771 Edition - These two phrases do not appear in this dictionary, according to 11/22/2021 email response from Reference Services, New York State Library, Cultural Education Center.

Third Edition - 1778
(Includes the same mentions from First Edition)
Volume 1

1. U A mention in the entry for the word "Armigeri" – “Not only a title of dignity, belonging as such as bear arms, but the common appellation of servants, especially in convents.”

2. M A mention in the entry for the word "Baneret" – “…a knight made in the field, with the ceremony of cutting off the point of his standard, and making it as it were a banner, an accounted so honourable, that they are allowed to display their arms in the King’s army as barons do, and may bear arms with supporters…”

Volume II

3. U A mention in the entry for the word "Undjes(?)" – “Minors, or persons under age; not capable to bear arms.
2.
An universal etymological English dictionary
By Nathan Bailey

1726 Edition

1742 Edition
(Similar mentions to the 1726 Edition)
Two mentions

1. M A mention in the entry for the word "Firdwrithi" – “…Military Men, such as are worthy to bear Arms.

2. M A mention in the entry for the phrase "Knights service" – “a Tenure whereby several Lands were anciently held of King, upon Condition to bear Arms in his Service.”
Two mentions

1. M A mention in the entry for the word "Ferdwit" – “…Also a Fine of 120 s. for not bearing Arms in a military expedition.”

2. M A mention in the entry for the phrase "Power of the Country" – “posse comitatus…the aid and attendance of all above the Age of 15 Years (that are capable of bearing Arms) when any Force is used in Opposition to the Execution of Justice.”

3.An universal etymological English dictionary
By Nathan Bailey

1737 Edition
Three mentions

1. U A mention in the entry for the word "Devotion" – “…all those who shall bear arms against us and shall attack our legions and our armies…”

2. U A mention in the entry for the word "Gentlemen" – “Gentlemen have their beginning either from blood, as before, as they are born of parents of worth; or for having done something in peace or war, for which they are worthy to bear arms, and be accounted gentlemen.”

3. U A mention in the entry for the word "Political" – “…1. To find in the multitude or body of people the proportion of men able to bear arms, which he reckons from 18 to 56 years old, and accounts about a quarter of the whole.”
4.
Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England
By William Blackstone

Oxford First Edition - 1765 to 1769
Book 1 Chapter 12

1. M “The custom of the ancient Germans was to give their young men a shield and a lance in the great council: this was equivalent to the toga virilis of the Romans: before this they were not permitted to bear arms, but were accounted as part of the father's houshold; after it, as part of the public.”

- Book 2, Chapter 5

2. M “We may plainly discover the footsteps of a similar custom in what Tacitus relates of the Germans, who in order to qualify their young men to bear arms, presented them in a full assembly with a shield and lance; which ceremony, as was formerly hinted, is supposed to have been the original of the feodal knighthood.”
Book 2 Chapter 4

1. U “…and therefore infants, women, and professed monks, who were incapable of bearing arms, were also incapable of succeeding to a genuine feud. but the heir, when admitted to the feud which his ancestor possessed, used generally to pay a fine or acknowledgement to the lord, in…”

- Book 2 Chapter 5

2. M “Secondly, to make the lord's eldest son a knight; a matter that was formerly attended with great ceremony, pomp, and expense. This aid could not be demanded till the heir was fifteen years old, or capable of bearing arms: the intention of it being to breed up the eldest son, and heir apparent of the feignory, to deeds of arms and chivalry, for the better defence of the nation.”
5.Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum
By John Kersey

1708
Three mentions

1. M A mention in the entry for the word "Fiedwithi" – “Military men, such as are worthy to bear Arms.

2. M A mention in the entry for the phrase "Knights-service or Chivalry" – “an ancient Tenure, whereby Lands were held of the King, upon Condition to bear Arms in his Service.”

3. M A mention in the entry for the phrase "Train-Bands" – “…certain Regiments made of the Inhabitants of a City or Town, train’d up to bear arms.
6.Dictionarium Britannicum
By Nathan Bailey, George Gordon

1730
Two mentions

1. M A mention in the entry for the word "Gentleman" – “Gentlemen have their beginning either from Blood, as before, as they are born of Parents of Worth; or for having done something in Peace or War, for which they are worthy to bear Arms, and be accounted Gentlemen.”

2. M A mention in the entry for the phrase "Train Bans" – Trained Bands – “certain Regiments composed of the Inhabitants of it, trained up to bear Arms, and influenced in Military Discipline.”
One mention

1. M A mention in the entry for the word "Armigerous" – “Bearing Arms or Weapons.”
7.Dictionary of the English Language
By Samuel Johnson

1792