Butlers derive their name from the French word "bouteillier" or bottler which approximates to a cup bearer or wine steward in English. In the homes of nobility or people of wealth and quality, the butler was responsible for maintaining the wine cellar. In conjunction with the cooking staff the butler would coordinate an appropriate wine selection for the meal or individual courses within the meal.All elements of purchasing, storing, retrieving, opening, quality control, decanting, temperature and service were handled. Hospitality in such households was integral to diplomatic, business and social relationships and so this role was crucial to the overall reputation of the patron. This position entailed significant trust and prestige in relationship to the other roles in the household.
Over time, the title and position of butler expanded in the parlance of the day and locations to include any number of household tasks and particularly to apply to the senior male staff member who was responsible to oversee such tasks as but not limited to livery staff, stable management and grounds oversight. Butlers were often designated by dress that set them apart from more junior staff and reflected the general esteem and value in which they were held by their employers.
Today, despite a considerable diminishing of the role and profile in the 20th century, the butler remains an active position which equates to a personal secretary and facilitator. The role is making a resurgence with practitioners of the craft who are typically are highly educated, trained in protocol and highly committed to their profession. While butlers occasionally may fit the traditional stereotype of a manservant in traditional coat and tails, modern butlers can be male or female and have expanded their services from traditional roles and appear as typical professionals plying their trade with meticulous care.