a man ranking above an ordinary freeman and below a noble in Anglo-Saxon England (especially one who gave military service in exchange for land)
source: WordNet 3.0
A dignitary under the Anglo-Saxons and Danes in England. Of these there were two orders, the king's thanes, who attended the kings in their courts and held lands immediately of them, and the ordinary thanes, who were lords of manors and who had particular jurisdiction within their limits. After the Conquest, this title was disused, and baron took its place.