late 13c., "young man who attends a knight," later "member of the landowning class ranking below a knight" (c.1300), from O.Fr. esquier
"squire," lit. "shield carrier" (see esquire
). Meaning "country gentleman, landed proprietor" is from 1670s; as a general term of address to a gentleman, it is attested from 1828. The verb meaning "to attend (a lady) as a gallant" is first recorded late 14c.