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king-of-arms

[king-uh v-ahrmz] /ˈkɪŋ əvˈɑrmz/
noun, plural kings-of-arms.
1.
a title of certain of the principal heralds of England and certain other kingdoms empowered by their sovereigns to grant armorial bearings.
Origin
late Middle English
1400-1450
1400-50; late Middle English king of armes. See king, arm2
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for king of arms

king-of-arms

noun (pl) kings-of-arms
1.
the highest rank of heraldic officer, itself divided into the ranks of Garter, Clarenceaux, and Norroy and Ulster. In Scotland the first is Lyon
2.
a person holding this rank
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Encyclopedia Article for king of arms

originally, an officer in medieval Europe charged with carrying messages to and from the commanders of opposing armies; in modern times, a professional authority on armorial history and genealogy. In the 12th century heralds formally announced and conducted tournaments, including the proclamation of each joust and the name of each combatant. To carry out these duties it was essential that the herald be familiar with the family derivation and be able to recognize the arms of local nobles on sight. In the 14th century heralds began to serve nobles on a more permanent basis and became associated with their names and houses. In the late 14th century the authority of the heralds was expanded. By the early 15th century the principal herald (king of arms) had become a commissioner for nobilitas minor ("minor nobility"), a term now embracing all the nobility ranking below the peerage and including baronets, Scottish barons, lairds, knights, esquires, and gentlemen. When the crown ceased to grant arms directly, its powers were delegated to the heralds as commissioners, with authority to issue letters patent. In the 16th and 17th centuries heralds were called upon to carry out visitations at which men bearing arms were required to present proof of their right to do so

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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