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c.1300, "nobility of rank or birth," from Old French genterise, variant of gentilise "noble birth, gentleness," from gentil (see gentle). Meaning "noble persons" is from 1520s. Earlier in both senses was gentrice (c.1200 as "nobility of character," late 14c. as "noble persons"). In Anglo-Irish, gentry was a name for "the fairies" (1880), and gentle could mean "enchanted" (1823).