Under the Ancien Regime in southern France, the sénéchal was the king's representative charged with the application of justice and control of administration in the sénéchaussée (administrative district). In northern France, the terms used were bailli and bailliage (bailiwick). According to historian Henry Hallam, the first sénéchaux to receive judicial functions did so by an edict of Philip II of France in 1190, and "acted as the king's lieutenants in his domains", or a sort of roving ambassadors/ministers for the throne. Sometimes, seneschals were given additional responsibilities, including high military command.
The word is recorded in English since 1393, deriving via Old French seneschal, from Frankish Latin siniscalcus, itself from Proto-Germanic roots sini- 'senior' and skalk 'servant' (as in marshal.) Germanic rooted title of command over a jurisdiction.