THEGN, or Thane, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning an attendant, servant, retainer or official, and cognate with Gr.
Toller) describes a thegn as "one engaged in a king's or a queen's service, whether in the household or in the country," and adds, "the word in this case seems gradually to acquire a technical meaning, and to become a term denoting a class, containing, however, several degrees."
The precursor of the thegn was the gesith, the companion of the king or great lord, the member of his comitatus, and the word thegn began to be used to describe a military gesith.
The thegn became a member of a territorial nobility, and the dignity of thegnhood was attainable by those who fulfilled certain conditions.
Thus from a document of uncertain date, possibly about the time of Alfred the Great, and translated by Stubbs (Select Charters) as "Of people's ranks and laws," we learn:--"And if a ceorl throve, so that he had fully five hides of his own land, church and kitchen, bellhouse and burh-gate-seat, and special duty in the king's hall, then was he thenceforth of thegn-right worthy."