Baccalaureus (i.e. BACHELOR), one who takes a first degree in divinity, arts, medicine, or civil law. This degree was first introduced in the thirteenth century by Pope Gregory IX. Rhenanus maintains that the title is taken from the Baculus placed in the hand of the new graduate. The usual derivation is that given by Alciatus, viz. bacca laurea, a laurel berry; "but the Spanish bachillir, which means at once a babbler and a master of arts, taken in conjunction with the Portuguese bacharel and bacillo, a shoot or twig of the vine (from the Latin baculus or baculum, a stick or shoot), and the French bachelette, a damsel, seem to point to its original and generic meaning, which probably was a person shooting or protruding from one stage of his career into another more advanced. With this general signification, all the special meanings of the word given by Ducange (Glossariun, s.v.) seem to have some analogy.
1. It was used, he says, to indicate a person who cultivated certain portions of church lands called baccalaria — which he supposed to have been a corruption of vasseleria — a few belonging to an inferior vassal, or to one who had not attained to a full feudal recognition.
2. It indicated ecclesiastics of a lower dignity than the other members of a religious brotherhood, i.e. monks who were still in the first stage of monkhood.
3. It was used by later writers to indicate persons in the first or probationary stage of knighthood; i.e. not esquires simply, but knights who, from poverty and the insufficient number of their retainers, from their possessing, perhaps, only the baccalaria above referred to, or from nonage, had not yet raised their banners in the field (leve banniere).
4. It was adopted to indicate the first grade or step in the career of university life. As an academical title, it was first introduced by Pope Gregory IX in the thirteenth century into the University of Paris to denote a candidate who had undergone his first academical trials, and was authorized to give lectures, but was not yet admitted to the rank of an independent master or doctor. At a later period it was introduced into the other faculties as the lowest academical honor, and adopted by the other universities of Europe." In the Middle Ages two kinds of bachelors were recognized in theological studies, viz. Baccalaurei cursores and Baccalaurei formati. The former were those who, after six years of study, were admitted to perform their courses. There were two courses, one in explaining the Bible for three years, and the other in explaining for one year the Master of the Sentences; consequently, those who performed the biblical course were called Baccalaurei biblici; the others, Baccalaurei sententiarii; while those who had finished both courses were known as Baccalaurei formati. — Chambers, Encyclopaedia, s.v.; Herzog, Real- Encyklopadie, Suppl. 1:424; Hilscher, De nomine Baccalaurei (Lips. 1733); Gottsched, De dignitate Bacc. Lipsiensis (Lips. 1739); Landon, Eccles.Dictionary, s.v. SEE DEGREES; SEE UNIVERSITIES.