Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A loyal and trusted follower or subordinate.
  • n. A person who supports a political figure chiefly out of selfish interests.
  • n. A member of a criminal gang.
  • n. Obsolete A page to a prince or other person of high rank.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A loyal and trusted follower or subordinate.
  • n. A person who supports a political figure chiefly out of selfish interests.
  • n. A member of a criminal gang.
  • n. A page to a prince or other person of high rank.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An attendant; a servant; a follower. Now chiefly used as a political cant term.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A groom; a footman; a male attendant; a follower.
  • n. Hence A mercenary adherent; a venal follower; one who holds himself at the bidding of another.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. someone who assists in a plot

Etymologies

Middle English hengsman, henshman, servant to a person of rank : hengest, horse (from Old English) + man, man; see man.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English hencheman, henseman, henxman ("a groom, page, attendant"), from Old English *hengstmann, *hengestmann (literally "horse-man"), from hengst, hengest ("stallion, horse, steed, gelding") (from Proto-Germanic *hangistaz (“stallion”), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱanḱest-, *kankest- (“horse”)) + mann ("man"). Cognate with German Hengstmann ("a groom"), Icelandic hestamaður ("horseman, groom"). More at man. (Wiktionary)

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