An alderman is a member of a municipal assembly or council in many jurisdictions founded upon English law. The term may be titular, denoting a high-ranking member of a borough or county council, a council member chosen by the elected members themselves rather than by popular vote, or a council member elected by voters.[1]

The title is derived from the Old English title of ealdorman, literally meaning "elder man", and was used by the chief nobles presiding over shires.


Usage by country

In Australia

Many local government bodies used the term "alderman" in Australia. As in the way local councils have been modernised in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the term alderman has been discontinued in a number of places. For example, in the State of Queensland before 1994, rural "shires" elected "councillors" and a "chairman", while "cities" elected a "mayor" and "aldermen". Since 1994, all local and regional government areas in Queensland elect a "mayor" and "councillors." (The Brisbane City Council has always had a "Lord Mayor"). An example of the use of the term alderman was in the City of Adelaide.[2] Aldermen were elected from the electors in all the wards.[3]

In Canada

Historically, in Canada, the term "alderman" was used for those persons elected to a municipal council to represent the wards. As women were increasingly elected to municipal office, the term "councillor" slowly replaced "alderman", although there was some use of the term "alderperson". Today, the title of "alderman" is rarely used, except in some cities in Alberta and Ontario as well as some smaller municipalities elsewhere in the country that retain the title for historical reasons.

In Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland the title was used by the first person elected in a multi-seat local government ward. The Local Government Act 2001 abolished the title as part of a modernisation of local government, and as such, none of the Councillors elected in the local elections of 2004 or later holds the title Alderman.[4]

In the United Kingdom

Although the term originated in England, it had no clear definition there until the 19th century, as each municipal corporation had its own constitution. It was used in England, Wales and Ireland (all of Ireland being part of the U.K. from January 1801 up until December 1922), but was not used in Scotland. Under the Municipal Reform Act 1835, municipal borough corporations consisted of councillors and aldermen. Aldermen would be elected not by the electorate, but by the council (including the outgoing aldermen), for a term of six years, which allowed a party that narrowly lost an election to retain control by choosing aldermen. The act was changed in 1910, so that outgoing aldermen were no longer allowed to vote.[5][6] Aldermen were finally abolished under the Local Government Act 1972 in 1974, except for London boroughs where the position was abolished in 1978.[7] County councils also elected aldermen, but not rural district and urban district councils.

Councils can still create honorary aldermen, often a reward for long service. This award is used much more often in Northern Ireland than in England or Wales. Northern Ireland councils may additionally designate a quarter of their councillors as aldermen.

In the City of London, aldermen are elected for each ward, by the regular electorate, and until recently for life. They form the Court of Aldermen. To be a candidate to be Lord Mayor of the City of London, it is necessary to be an alderman and to have been a sheriff of the City of London.

In Scotland, the office of "baillie" bore some similarities.

"Alderman" is used for both men and women and may be prefixed to a person's name (e.g. Alderman John Smith, Alderman Smith or, for women, Alderman Mrs (or Miss) Smith).

In the United States

"Board of Aldermen" is the governing executive or legislative body of many cities and towns in the United States. The term is sometimes used instead of city council, or is used of an executive board independent of the council, or is used of what amounts to an upper house of a bicameral legislature (as it was in New York City until the 20th Century). Its members are called "Alderman" or "Alderwoman",[8] while in the State of Wisconsin, the term "Alderperson" is officially used. Some cities, such as Chicago, mix the two terms, thereby having a city council composed of aldermen. Some states such as Pennsylvania established aldermen in the 19th century to serve as local judges for minor infractions. Pennsylvania's aldermen were phased out in the early 20th century. In this manner depending on the jurisdiction an alderman could have been part of the legislative or judicial local government. Boards of Aldermen are used in many rural areas of the United States as opposed to a larger city council or city commission.

Historically the term could also refer to local municipal judges in small legal proceedings (as in Pennsylvania[9] and Delaware).

Alderman is often abbreviated as Ald., e.g.,

Ald. Danny Solis (25th) has overhauled the zoning application to spell out the purpose of the zoning change and identify everyone with an interest in the property -- including limited partnerships and liability corporations.
—Chicago Sun-Times, Feb 10, 2010

See also


  1. ^ "Alderman". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010. <>. 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2010. 
  2. ^ "Adelaide - City Council, Town Hall and Allied Matters". Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  3. ^ "Microsoft Word - 7540 ACC Rep Review Stage 1 Consultants Report FINAL - Volume 2.doc" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  4. ^ Local government in Ireland: inside out - Google Books. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  5. ^ By kclancy. "Stoke-on-Trent memories of politician Terry Crowe". Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  6. ^ "ALDERMEN IN MUNICIPAL BOROUGHS BILL. (Hansard, 20 July 1910)". 1910-07-20. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ for more see Jane Addams, Democracy and Social Ethics; esp Ch. 5
  9. ^ "Have Pittsburgh city councilors ever been called "aldermen"? I used to see "alderman" signs on an old building. - Question submitted by: Joseph Forbes, South Side - Views - You Had to Ask - Pittsburgh City Paper". Retrieved 2011-03-02. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • alderman — ● alderman, aldermen ou aldermans nom masculin (mot anglais) Magistrat d un conseil municipal en Grande Bretagne, en Irlande et aux États Unis, ou d un conseil de comté dans le Royaume Uni. (Le terme vient d un vieux mot anglo saxon qui désignait …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Alderman — ist der historische Titel eines Beigeordneten auf den britischen Inseln der historische Leiter eines Shire im frühen England, siehe Ealdorman Alderman ist der von Ältermann abgeleitete Familienname folgender Personen: Fred Alderman (1905–1998),… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • alderman — al·der·man / ȯl dər mən/ n: a member of a city legislative body Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996. alderman …   Law dictionary

  • Alderman — Al der*man ([add]l d[ e]r*man), n.; pl. {Aldermen}. [AS. aldormon, ealdorman; ealdor an elder + man. See {Elder}, n.] 1. A senior or superior; a person of rank or dignity. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] Note: The title was applied, among the Anglo Saxons …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Alderman — (spr. Ahldermänn, vom angelsächsischen Ealdormen), 1) in England unter den Angelsachsen der Vorsitzende der Grafschaftsgerichte neben dem Bischof so wie in Kriegs u. Friedenszeiten der oberste Beamte der Grafschaft; er ward vom König gewählt,… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Alderman — (spr. aoldermän; angelsächs. Aldorman, »Ältester«), im Angelsächsischen Vorsteher einer Genossenschaft, besonders aber Titel der Oberbeamten der Kreise oder Grafschaften (shires) und der Ältesten (senatores) des Reiches, die, anfangs von den… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Alderman — (engl., spr. áhldrmänn, d.i. Ältester), bei den Angelsachsen Oberbeamter einer Grafschaft, nach der dän. Eroberung Earl (Jarl) genannt; jetzt in England und Nordamerika Mitglied des Stadtrats …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • alderman — ALDERMAN. s. masc. Nom qu on donne en Angleterre à certains Officiers municipaux …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • alderman — (n.) O.E. aldormonn (Mercian), ealdormann (W.Saxon) ruler, prince, chief; chief officer of a shire, from aldor, ealder patriarch (comparative of ald old; see OLD (Cf. old)) + monn, mann man (see MAN (Cf. man) (n.)). A relic of the days when the… …   Etymology dictionary

  • alderman — ► NOUN 1) chiefly historical a co opted member of an English county or borough council, next in status to the Mayor. 2) (also alderwoman) N. Amer. & Austral. an elected member of a city council. DERIVATIVES aldermanship noun. ORIGIN Old English,… …   English terms dictionary

  • alderman — [ôl′dər mən] n. pl. aldermen [ôl′dərmən] [ME < OE ealdorman, chief, prince < eald, OLD + man, MAN] 1. in some U.S. cities, a member of the municipal council, usually representing a certain district or ward 2. in England and Wales before… …   English World dictionary