early 13c., from O.Fr. empereor
(acc.), from L. imperiatorem
) "commander, emperor," from stem of imperare
"to command" (see empire
). Originally a title conferred by vote of the Roman army on a successful general, later by the Senate on Julius and Augustus Caesar and adopted by their successors except Tiberius and Claudius. In the Middle Ages, applied to rulers of China, Japan, etc.; only non-historical European application in Eng. was of the Holy Roman Emperors (who in Ger. documents are called kaiser
), from late 13c., until in 1804 Napoleon took the title "Emperor of the French." Empress
is attested from mid-12c.; Queen Victoria in 1876 became "Empress of India."