Featured Image: Impression of the Kaiserpfalz in Aachen (Wikipedia | Aliesin | CC BY-SA 3.0).
The term ‘palatinate’ first appears in the Late Middle English language. It derives from the French ‘palatin(e)’ that comes from the Latin ‘palatinus’ meaning ‘from the palace’ (see Oxford Learners Dictionaries). In German, it is better known as ‘pfalz’.
As a Palace
A palatinate refers to a royal palace. In the German medieval context, these were royal seats of the Holy Roman Emperor. The most famous one, the Lorraine palatinate, was the home of Charlemagne in Aachen. He was, of course, the first Holy Roman Emperor.
As a County
In the course of the Middle Ages, the Lorraine palatinate evolved into the Electoral Palatinate that covered a much larger area along the Rhine. A prince-elector who ruled on behalf of the Holy Roman Emperor governed this area. The title refers to the fact that this person also elected the new Holy Roman Emperor.