In the South of France properties are often called things like Mas Pauline. What is the etymology of the word mas?

I managed to find a short definition in the Collins French to English dictionary but no etymology.

The definition is

traditional house or farm in Provence

I am not sure the restriction to Provence is accurate as I have seen the word used frequently near the Spanish border too.

  • 3
    Mas isn't a French word. The languages spoken in the South of France (Occitan languages) and Spain (Catalan) are Roman languages that share common roots. Mas in Provençal and Catalan mean "country house" from Latin mansum which also gave French manoir.
    – None
    Aug 27, 2014 at 6:38
  • 3
    @Laure, what is your criteria to qualify mas as not French? It is defined in the dictionary of the French Academy. Aug 27, 2014 at 7:37
  • @Unfrancophone Not my criteria really, I said "not really French". I was just trying to understand/ (imagine?) why it had been closed. The question is about etymology and bi-lingual dictionaries to where OP was directed as closure reason never give etymology. I saw that old post on meta, added a comment, and asked for the question to be reopened.
    – None
    Aug 27, 2014 at 7:47
  • @Laure The close reason is written beneath the question. I closed it because there is a plausible-looking etymology in Wiktionary (even in English, the TLF and the Dictionnaire de l'Académie (which, by the way, show that this is beyond doubt a French word). Aug 27, 2014 at 7:54
  • 2
    @Gilles There's no doubt it is a French word, but it is the sort of case where I think OPs should be helped in choosing a correct dictionary. If French Language is also for people who don't speak French or are learners, then a little help should be given as to which type of dictionary to use. Besides the question of why the same word is used in the south of France and in Spain should be legitimate somewhere on Stackexchange. Finding the correct information is not always obvious when you don't kn,ow where to start.
    – None
    Aug 27, 2014 at 8:06

3 Answers 3


Mas has been borrowed from Provençal and Catalan which are both romance languages that belong to the Occitan family.

Provençal is spoken in Provence and Catalan in Pyrénées-Orientales. It is also spoken in Catalonia, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands where it is one of the co-official languages.

It comes from late Latin mansum ("the place where one stays/remains") which also gave French manoir, masure and maison). In the Middle-Ages mas designated a farmhouse with a particular tenure in the feudal system.1

The use of the word in French to designate a country house of Provence style dates from the mid 19th century when Provence became fashionable through literary works such as Daudet's.

1. I'm not a historian and really can't go into details on that topic.

  • It makes sense that areas on either side of the Pyrenees share certain terms. No one mentioned that. There must be others but I couldn't find a list.
    – Lambie
    Feb 26, 2022 at 18:06
  • @Lambie That list would be the whole dictionary. Essentially all words are shared between the Pyrenees in that particular case, given the fact we are talking about the very same language (Catalan).
    – jlliagre
    Feb 26, 2022 at 20:33
  • @jlliagre Mas has been borrowed from Provençal and Catalan which are both romance languages that belong to the Occitan family. [which span the Pyrenees mountains.]
    – Lambie
    Feb 26, 2022 at 22:14
  • @Lambie Yes, the vocabulary is largely the same between them. The fact Catalan is not considered to be just another dialect of Occitan was a political decision. Until the 19th century Catalan used to be named llemosi, which is one of the traditional names of Occitan, along with Provençal.
    – jlliagre
    Feb 26, 2022 at 22:44

It is correct that mas comes from the Latin verb "to stay". "Mansum" is the Past Participle Passive of the Classical Latin verb "manere"(maneo,manere,mansi, mansum).


Not so much it’s origin but applied usage (for interest) as early as 1762 is referenced below

Dumas was born in 1762 in the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue (modern Haiti). It was not an auspicious start. Dumas was a "batarde" (sic) - the product of a relationship between his aristocratic French father, Marquis Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, and a freed slave, Marie-Cesette (sic) Dumas. (Her surname, meaning "of the farm", was bestowed on her because managing a sugar plantation was her occupation as a freewoman.)

Source: https://amp.theguardian.com/books/2012/sep/28/black-count-tom-reiss-review

  • Que vient faire Dumas ici ?????
    – Toto
    Feb 26, 2022 at 9:29
  • @Toto Il m'a fallu un moment pour comprendre: Dumas → Du mas :-)
    – jlliagre
    Feb 26, 2022 at 10:00
  • 1
    @jlliagre: Oui, mais cela n'apporte aucune indication sur l'étymologie de « mas »...
    – Toto
    Feb 26, 2022 at 10:49
  • @Toto C'est vrai et Simon le dit au début de sa réponse qui aurait pu être un commentaire s'il avait eu assez de réputation.
    – jlliagre
    Feb 26, 2022 at 11:32
  • 1
    Dumas last name origin is not asserted. "Of the farm" is just one of a few hypothesis. Wikipedia Plusieurs thèses s'affrontent sur l'origine de son nom : il lui aurait été donné par des négriers ; il lui aurait été accolé car elle vivait dans un mas, c'est-à-dire une ferme ; il serait d'origine yorouba ou dahoméenne (source : Hans Werner Debrunner, Presence and prestige, Africans in Europe : a history of Africans in Europe before 1918, Afrika Bibliographien), 1979.
    – jlliagre
    Feb 26, 2022 at 20:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.