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Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for mastership in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)


From Middle English masterchippe, maisterschipe, equivalent to master +‎ -ship. Compare Dutch meesterschap, German Meisterschaft.


mastership (countable and uncountable, plural masterships)

  1. The state or office of a master.
    • 1574, Arthur Golding (translator), Sermons of Master John Calvin, upon the Booke of Job, London: Lucas Harison and George Byshop, Sermon 12,[1]
      [] wee haue one in heauen who is maister of vs all, as sainct Paule sayeth: there will be no accepting of persons, there shall bee no more bondage or mastershippe for men too alleage before God.
    • 1616, Nicholas Breton, The Good and the Badde, London: John Budge, “A Repentant Sinner,” p. 36,[2]
      A Repentant Sinner is the Child of Grace, who being borne for the seruice of God, makes no reckoning of the mastershippe of the world []
    • 1792, Arthur Murphy, An Essay on the Life and Genius of Samuel Johnson, London: T. Longman et al., p. 35,[3]
      Johnson, in August 1738, went, with all the same of his poetry, to offer himself a candidate for the mastership of the school at Appleby, in Leicestershire.
    • 1934, James Hilton, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, Chapter 1,[4]
      [] Chips, like some old sea captain, still measured time by the signals of the past; and well he might, for he lived at Mrs. Wickett’s, just across the road from the School. He had been there more than a decade, ever since he finally gave up his mastership []
  2. Mastery: dominion, superiority, control.
    • 1653, Walter Blith, The English Improver Improved, London: John Wright, Part 2, Chapter 36, p. 233,[5]
      [] you may begin to dig your ground in the beginning, so all along Winter till the very day of setting, and then you must keep it with weeding and hoing till it have got the mastership of the weeds and then it being a weed of it self wil destroy all other.
    • 1870, Walt Whitman, “Passage to India” in Leaves of Grass, Washington, D.C., 1871, p. 14,[6]
      Passage to you, your shores, ye aged fierce enigmas!
      Passage to you, to mastership of you, ye strangling problems!
    • 1949, Jenny O’Hara Pincock, “Consciousness is Space and Time No Empire Has” in Hidden Springs and Other Poems, p. 26,[7]
      I cannot doubt my mastership of fate,
      Nor bind my boundless soul.
  3. Mastery: superior skill.
    • c. 1607, William Shakespeare, Act IV, Scene 3,[8]
      Where is your ancient courage? you were used
      To say extremity was the trier of spirits;
      That common chances common men could bear;
      That when the sea was calm all boats alike
      Show’d mastership in floating []
    • 1726, Henry Carey, A Learned Dissertation on Dumpling, London: J. Roberts, p. 20,[9]
      Some swallow every thing whole and unmix’d; so that it may rather be call’d a Heap, than a Pudding. Others are so Squeamish, the greatest Mastership in Cookery is requir’d to make the Pudding Palatable []
  4. (obsolete) Chief work; masterpiece. (The addition of quotations indicative of this usage is being sought):
  5. A title of respect, sometimes ironic.
    • c. 1531, John Frith, A Disputacion of Purgatorye, Antwerp: S. Cock, Book 2,[10]
      Thus hath Master More a full a[n]swere both to his scriptures which were to farre wrested out of their places and also to his awne apparent reasons. How be it if his mastershippe be not fullye pacyfyed let him more groundlye open his minde and bringe for his purposse all that he thinketh to make for it and I shall by goddes grace shortlye make him an answere and guyet his minde.
    • c. 1594, William Shakespeare, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act III, Scene 1,[11]
      How now, Signior Launce! what news with your mastership?
    • 1595, George Peele, The Old Wives’ Tale, The Malone Society Reprints, 1908, lines 873-878,[12]
      [] lacke you not a neate handsome and cleanly yong Lad, about the age of fifteene or sixteene yeares, that can runne by your horse, and for a neede make your Mastershippes shooes as blacke as incke, howe say you sir.


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