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A butler is a servant in a large household. In the great houses of the past, the household was sometimes divided into departments with the butler in charge of the dining room, wine cellar, and pantries. Some also have charge of the entire parlour floor, and housekeepers caring for the entire house and its appearance. A butler is usually a man, and in charge of male servants, while a housekeeper is usually a woman, and in charge of female servants. Male servants (such as footmen) were better paid and therefore rarer and of higher status than female servants. The butler, as the senior male servant, therefore had the highest status of all.


In modern houses where the butler is the most senior worker, titles such as majordomo, butler administrator, house manager, manservant, staff manager, estate manager and head of household staff are sometimes given. The precise duties of the employee will vary to some extent in line with the title given, but perhaps more importantly in line with the requirements of the individual employer.

The earliest literary mention of a butler is probably that of the man whose release from prison was predicted by Joseph in the biblical account of Joseph's interpretation of the dreams of the Pharaoh's servants. The word "butler" derives from the Old French bouteillier (cup bearer), from bouteille, (bottle), and ultimately from Latin. The role of the butler, for centuries, has been that of the chief steward of a household, the attendant entrusted with the care and serving of wine and other bottled beverages which in ancient times might have represented a considerable portion of the household's assets.

In Britain, the butler was originally a middle ranking member of the staff of a grand household. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the butler gradually became the usually senior male member of a household's staff in the very grandest households, though there was sometimes a steward who ran the outside estate, rather than just the household, and who was senior to the butler in social status into the nineteenth century. Butlers used to always be attired in a special uniform, distinct from the livery of junior servants, but today a butler is more likely to wear a business suit or business casual clothing and appear in uniform only on special occasions.

A Silverman or Silver Butler has expertise and professional knowledge of the management, secure storage, use and cleaning of all silverware, associated tableware and other paraphernalia for use at military and other special functions. See also Silver .


Butlers used to work their way up from the bottom and belong to clubs in larger cities such as London, but today tend to go to butler schools and belong to guilds such as the International Institute of Modern Butlers and the Guild of Professional English Butlers, Or the [The International Guild of Butlers & Household Managers] [78296] . Butlers are also found in hotels, corporate settings, yachts, and embassies, and are available as temporary service providers.


As a surname, “Butler” was originated by Theobald le Botiller FitzWalter (Lord of Preston). Lord FitzWalter accompanied Henry II into Irelandmarker, and was appointed hereditary Chief Butler of Ireland in 1177. As such, he had the right to pour the King's wine. This title can be defined as Governor by today's standards. He was granted land holdings of Baggotrath, County Dublinmarker, and the Stein Rivermarker lands around what is now Trinity College Dublin. His son, Theobalde Butler, was the first to hold the name and pass it to his descendants. Kilkenny Castlemarker was the main seat of the Butler family.

In literature


The real-life butler is supposed to be discreet and unobtrusive. The butler of fiction, by contrast, often tends to be larger-than-life and has become a plot device in literature and a traditional role in the performing arts. Butlers may provide comic relief with wry comments, clues as to the perpetrators of various crimes and are represented as at least as intelligent and moral, or even more so, than their “betters”. They are often portrayed as being serious and expressionless and in the case that the wealthy hero be an orphan—such as Batman, Chrono Crusade's Satella Harvenheit, or Tomb Raider's Lara Croft—be a father figure to said hero. The fictional butler tends to be given a typical Anglo-Celtic surname and have a British accent.

Today, butlers are usually portrayed as being refined and well-spoken. However, in nineteenth century fiction such as Dracula, butlers generally spoke with a strong Cockney or other regional accent.

"The butler" is integral to the plot of countless potboilers and melodramas, whether or not the character has been given a name. Butlers figure so prominently in period pieces and whodunits that they can be considered stock characters in film and theatre where a catch phrase is "the butler did it!"

See valet for a list of characters who are often mistaken for butlers, but strictly speaking are valets. Jeeves is one example, though, as Jeeves' employer Wooster has noted, when the occasion demands Jeeves "can buttle with the best of them".

Examples of fictional butlers


Notable non-fictional butlers

See also

External links

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