Early English History. a member of any of several aristocratic classes of men ranking between earls and ordinary freemen, and granted lands by the king or by lords for military service.
Scottish History. a person, ranking with an earl's son, holding lands of the king; the chief of a clan, who became one of the king's barons.
Also, thegn.

before 900; late Middle English, spelling variant (Scots) of Middle English thain, thein, Old English thegn; cognate with Old Norse thegn subject, German Degen warrior, hero, Greek téknon child

underthane, noun
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World English Dictionary
thane or thegn (θeɪn)
1.  (in Anglo-Saxon England) a member of an aristocratic class, ranking below an ealdorman, whose status was hereditary and who held land from the king or from another nobleman in return for certain services
2.  in medieval Scotland
 a.  a person of rank, often the chief of a clan, holding land from the king
 b.  a lesser noble who was a Crown official holding authority over an area of land
[Old English thegn; related to Old Saxon, Old High German thegan thane]
thegn or thegn
[Old English thegn; related to Old Saxon, Old High German thegan thane]
thanage or thegn

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

O.E. ðegn "military follower," also "servant, attendant," from P.Gmc. *thegnas (cf. O.S. thegan "follower, warrior, boy," O.N. þegn "thane, freeman," O.H.G. thegan, Ger. Degen "thane, warrior, hero"), from PIE *tek-no- (cf. Skt. takman "descendant, child," Gk. teknon "child"), from base *tek-
"to beget, give birth to" (cf. Gk. tekos "child, the young of animals," tokos "childbirth, offspring, produce of money, interest"). Also used in O.E. for "disciple of Christ." Specific sense of "man who ranks between an earl and a freeman" is c.1470. The modern spelling is from Scottish, where c.1220 it came to mean "chief of a clan, king's baron," and probably predominated in Eng. due to influence of "Macbeth;" normal orthographic changes from O.E. ðegn would have produced Mod.Eng. *thain. Some historians now use thegn to distinguish Anglo-Saxon thanes from Scottish thanes.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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