American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. The legal status or condition of a villein.
- n. The legal tenure by which a villein held land.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A tenure of lands and tenements by base—that is, menial—services. It was originally founded on the servile state of the occupiers of the soil, who were allowed to hold portions of land at the will of their lord, on condition of performing base or menial services. Where the service was base in its nature, and undefined as to time and amount, the tenant being bound to do whatever was commanded, the tenure received the name of pure villeinage; but where the service, although of a base nature, was certain and defined, it was called
privileged villeinage, and sometimes villein socage. The tenants in villeinage were divided into two distinct classes. First, there were the villani proper, whose holdings, the hides, half-hides, virgates, and bovates (see hide, holding), were correlative with the number of oxen allotted to them or contributed by them to the manorial plow-team of eight oxen. Below the villani proper were the numerous smaller tenants of what may be termed the cottier class, sometimes called in “Liber Niger” bordarii(probably from the Saxon bord, a cottage), and these cottagers, possessing generally no oxen, and therefore taking no part in the common plowing, still in some manors seem to have ranked as a lower grade of villani, having small allotments in the open fields, in some manors five acre strips apiece, in other manors more or less. Lastly, below the villains and cottiers were, in some districts, remains, hardly to be noticed in the later cartularies, of a class of servi, or slaves, fast becoming merged in the cottier class above them, or losing themselves among the household servants or laborers upon the lord's demesne. (Seebohm.) (See manor, yard-land, heriot.) It frequently happened that lands held in villeinage descended in uninterrupted succession from father to son, until at length the occupiers or villains became entitled, by prescription or custom, to hold their lands against the lord so long as they performed the required services. And although the villains themselves acquired freedom, or their land came into the possession of freemen, the villein services were still the condition of the tenure, according to the custom of the manor. These customs were preserved and evidenced by the rolls of the several courts-baron in which they were entered, or kept on foot by the constant immemorial usage of the several manors in which the lands lay. And as such tenants had nothing to show for their estates but the entries in those rolls, or copies of them authenticated by the steward, they at last came to be called tenants by copy of court-roll, and their tenure a copyhold.
- n. tenure by which a villein held land
- n. the legal status or condition of servitude of a villein or feudal serf
- villein + -age (Wiktionary)
“Valiant men, forsooth, shall arise in the beginning of these evil times, but though they shall die as ye shall, yet shall not their deaths be fruitful as yours shall be; because ye, forsooth, are fighting against villeinage which is waning, but they shall fight against usury which is waxing.”
“As he says, "Bondage to the land was the basis of villeinage in the old regime; bondage to the job will be the basis of villeinage in the new.”
“This article explores the obstacles to such litigation, challenging the claim that servile villeinage acted to restrict villagers' choice of court.”
“Indeed, over the centuries Catholic kings and popes gradually abolished the institution of slavery replacing ancient slavery with the Feudal serf and then replacing the serf and the unfree villeins, bordars and cottars with a free, land-owning peasantry and villeinage.”
“Cruel reaction ensued: Richard and Parliament annulled the charters; terrible repression followed, and a deliberate effort was made to restore villeinage.”
“Most men of these local villages, tied to the soil by villeinage but also by inclination, and likely to marry within a very few miles 'radius, tended to have a close clan resemblance and a strong clan loyalty.”
“Even in villeinage we would have married and been thankful.”
“The threat to haul him back to villeinage would be enough to make the lad take to his heels, the faster the better.”
“I'd talked with him only once, but he took me so for a true man he'd hear no wrong of me, nor have me run to earth and dragged back into villeinage.”
“I love you all the more,' said Hyacinth, 'for viewing my villeinage as past.”
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