A laird is a person, male or female, who is the owner of an estate, usually with a significant amount of land, in Scotland. A lairdship was usually passed down through the generations, from the father to the oldest son. While it was possible for women to become lairds in their own right, it was not common.
The title of "laird" implies that the person was a member of the gentry, or upper class. They were not necessarily nobility, however. Dukes, counts, and similar titles were handed out by the king of a country. The status of "laird" was based on the amount of land a family owned. Lairds would then rent that land to tenants to use for farming and setting up small businesses. They would also provide protection for their people if it became necessary. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the title of "laird" was usually used for the chief of a highland clan.
In historic times, there were very few ways to become a laird. Most lairdships were inherited. Unlike dukeships, they could only be transferred with the land. If the land was overrun, the new owner would become the laird of the estate. If the laird died with no heirs, the land, and title, could be handed to another member of gentry in the estate, or to a neighboring laird.
In modern times, it is much easier to claim the title of laird, albeit unofficially. As part of a land conservation movement, some organizations sell small plots of land from old estates. These plots of land, usually about one square foot in size, come with lairdship titles. This movement is helping to preserve historic areas in Scotland from modernization; however, it's important to note that the lairdships offered are not official, and have been deemed meaningless by the law court that oversees heraldry in Scotland.
Although this titled lairdship is not the same as what it meant several hundred years ago, it is a unique idea for gifts. The purchase of the plot of land and title is often accompanied by pictures of the plot of land, a map showing where the land is located, and a titled deed stating that the lot, and title of "laird," is yours.
In the past, it was incredibly unlikely that anyone outside of the titled family would become a laird. To become a laird back then, most people would have had to organize a large group of men, and take over the estate. Now, however, all it takes is the interest in helping to preserve old Scottish estates from modern development.