Definitions

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

  • n. One of a class of feudal serfs who held the legal status of freemen in their dealings with all people except their lord.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A feudal tenant.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. See villain, 1.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • See villain.

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

  • n. (Middle Ages) a person who is bound to the land and owned by the feudal lord

Etymologies

Middle English vilein; see villain.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Anglo-Norman villein, variant of villain; from Medieval Latin villanus "field hand", from Latin villa "country home". (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Vinogradoff and others have conclusively established that there was not a real difference in status between the so-called villein regardant and villein in gross, and that in any case the villein was not properly a slave but rather a serf. [

    The Journal of Negro History, Volume 5, 1920

  • The investigation of Paul Vinogradoff and others have conclusively established that there was not a real difference in status between the so-called villein regardant and villein in gross, and that in any case the villein was not properly a slave but rather a serf. [

    The Journal of Negro History, Volume 4, 1919

  • "villein" was real property and in the same case as land: also that when Parliament came to legislate so as to make lands in the American

    The Journal of Negro History, Volume 5, 1920

  • Could she truly be so shallow as to be drawn to a weak-minded, contemptible villein better suited to walk behind an ox plowing fields than dare to lift his eyes to a queen?

    Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer

  • From magnate to baron, from workman to villein, from publicist to court agent and retainer, will be changes of state and function so slight as to elude all but the keenest eyes.

    A REVIEW

  • The villein villages till the soil among them, and pay their communal dues together, though every man has his dwelling and his cattle and his fair share of the land.

    His Disposition

  • I can think of three explanations for the “villein” claim in the Triads:

    Cadafael, King of Gwynedd

  • As a villein is an unfree peasant or serf, this is unlikely to be literally true.

    Cadafael, King of Gwynedd

  • In addition to this legislation, landowners began to enforce their manorial privileges strictly, making certain that they received their full amount of "villein dues, and in particular labour obligations" (Saul, 60).

    History of the 1831 Peasants' Rebellion

  • We read of Mogg, daughter of a villein peasant and Jack, her half-wit brother, who save the family cow from the clutches of the lord.

    Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz

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Comments

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  • "A solid ancient leaning on his hoe, shuffling backwards and forwards to his shed. The villein with his small corner of England."
    London Orbital by Iain Sinclair, p 135 of the Penguin paperback edition

    January 29, 2012

  • Not to be confused with a villain, of course.

    December 3, 2008