Bar"on*et(), n. [Baron + -et.] A dignity or degree of honor next below a baron and above a knight, having precedency of all orders of knights except those of the Garter. It is the lowest degree of honor that is hereditary. The baronets are commoners.
The order was founded by James I. in 1611, and is given by patent. The word, however, in the sense of a lesser baron, was in use long before. "Baronets have the title of 'Sir' prefixed to their Christian names; their surnames being followed by their dignity, usually abbreviated Bart. Their wives are addressed as 'Lady' or 'Madam'. Their sons are possessed of no title beyond 'Esquire.'"
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