The term peer has a large variety of definitions and has many different applications. Peer as a noun has a main definitions that revolve around the central idea of equals, which appeared around 980 in Old French. It can be used to describe a person of high rank in a country, a noble, a state or organization. This definition has been used in Britain, Ireland, France, and Sparta. In Britain and Ireland it means that a person is a member of a rank of hereditary nobility, such as a duke, marquees, earl, viscount, or baron. It is also possible for a person to be elevated to the peerage for life, without hereditary rights. In France there are the twelve peers of France, which are also called the douzepers. To receive the title of peer was an honor and only a selected few received it. Peer, in this sense, comes from Old French and was first used around 1100. This term then was used in France during the 13th century to describe a person possessing a territory, which is set up as a lordship, and having the right to a seat in the Parliament of Paris. A third definition was given to the term from 1814 to 1848, in which it meant a person was a member of the Upper Legislative Chamber. The Spartans used the word to describe members of a certain class who had an equal right to hold state offices.
Peer as a noun can also be used to compare two people who are equal in various ways. They can be of the same age, statues, or social set, a contemporary, or they could have the same ability, natural gifts, or achievements. Peer, in the sense of equals or matching, originates from the Anglo-Norman per, paar, paer, paire, peer, pere, perre, and piere, from the 12th century or earlier. At one point in the early 13th century, peer was used in terms of companion and spouse. This may have been taken from the classical Latin par, which means a person of equal rank, a mate, or partner. Peer may also imply that two people are of equal civil or ecclesiastical status or rank, making them equals before the law. This interpretation comes from the post-classical Latin sense of peer meaning two people of equal legal status.
The verb peer has three different main definitions concerning sight, equality, and pouring. There are two interpretations of peer regarding sight. The first is to look keenly or with difficulty at someone or something. It comes from the late 16th century and is a variant of dialect pire, short for appear. However, it may also just concern inanimate object that seem to be just visible, especially from behind something, protruding a short distance into view. The verb may also mean to be equal, to rank with, or to match with another person. This variation originates from the Middle French word perer, meaning to compare, to go hand in hand with, or to join. Lastly, peer can also be to poor out in a small trickle. The origin of this definition is unknown, but it has been suggested that it originated from the Norwegian word pira, to pour out in a very thin stream.
"peer, n. and adj.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/139725 (accessed November 21, 2012).
"peer, v.1". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/139726 (accessed November 21, 2012).
"peer, v.2". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/139728?rskey=lzEGvU&result=3&isAdvanced=false (accessed November 21, 2012).
"peer, v.3". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/139727 (accessed November 21, 2012).