1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Shire

SHIRE, one of the larger administrative divisions, in Great Britain, now generally synonymous with “county ” (q.v.), but the word is still used of smaller districts, such as Richmondshire and Hallamshire in Yorkshire, Norhamshire and Hexhamshire in Northumberland. The Anglo-Saxon shire (O. Eng. scir) was an administrative division next above the hundred and was presided over by the ealdorman and the sheriff (the shire-reeve). The word scir, according to Skeat (Etym. Dict., 1910), meant originally office, charge, administration; thus in a vocabulary of the 8th century (Wright-Wülcker, Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies, 1884, 40-32) is found procuratio, sciir. Skeat compares O. Eng. scirian, to distribute, appoint, Ger. Schirrmeister, steward. The usual derivation of the word connects it with “shear” and “share,” and makes the original meaning to have been a part cut off.