c.1200, "servant," from O.Fr. sergent, from M.L. servientum (nom. serviens) "servant, vassal, soldier" (in L.L. "public official"), from L. servientem "serving," prp. of servire "to serve" (see serve
); cognate with Sp. sirviente, It. servente. Specific sense of "military servant"
is attested from late 13c.; that of "officer whose duty is to enforce judgments of a tribunal or legislative body" is from c.1300 (sergeant at arms is attested from late 14c.). Meaning "non-commissioned military officer" first recorded 1540s. Originally a much more important rank than presently. As a police rank, in Great Britain from 1839. Colloquial shortening sarge is attested from 1867. M.E. alternative spelling serjeant (from O.Fr.) was retained in Britain in special use as title of a superior order of barristers (c.1300, from legal L. serviens ad legem, "one who serves (the king) in matters of law"), abolished 1880, from which Common Law judges were chosen; also used of certain other officers of the royal household. sergeant-major is from 1570s.