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early 13c. as a surname; mid-13c. as "high officer of the royal court;" from Old French mareschal "commanding officer of an army; officer in charge of a household" (Modern French maréchal), originally "stable officer, horse tender, groom" (Frankish Latin mariscaluis) from Frankish *marhskalk or a similar Germanic word, literally "horse-servant" (cf. Old High German marahscalc "groom," Middle Dutch maerschalc), from Proto-Germanic *markhaz "horse" (see mare (1)) + *skalkaz "servant" (cf. Old English scealc "servant, retainer, member of a crew," Dutch schalk "rogue, wag," Gothic skalks "servant").
Cognate with Old English horsþegn. From c.1300 as "stable officer;" early 14c. as "military commander, general in the army." For development history, cf. constable. Also from Germanic are Italian scalco "steward," Spanish mariscal "marshal."
early 15c., "to tend (horses)," from marshal (n.). Meaning "to arrange, place in order" is from mid-15c.; that of "to arrange for fighting" is from mid-15c. Figurative use by 1690s. Related: Marshaled; marshaling.
in some past and present armies, including those of Britain, France, Germany, Russia or the Soviet Union, and China, the highest ranking officer. The rank evolved from the title of marescalci (masters of the horse) of the early Frankish kings. The importance of cavalry in medieval warfare led to the marshalship being associated with a command position; this rank came to include the duties of keeping order at court and in camp and of deciding questions of chivalry. As a military leader the marshal was originally subordinate to the constable in the various states of western Europe. By the 13th century, however, the marshal was rapidly coming to prominence as a commander of the royal forces and a great officer of state