Definitions

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

  • n. An unskilled laborer or farm worker of Latin America or the southwest United States.
  • n. Such a worker bound in servitude to a landlord creditor.
  • n. A menial worker; a drudge.
  • n. In India and other parts of South and Southeast Asia, a person of menial position, especially a messenger, servant, or foot soldier.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A lowly person, a peasant or serf, a labourer who is obliged to do menial work

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. See poon.
  • n. A foot soldier; a policeman; also, an office attendant; a messenger.
  • n. A day laborer; a servant; especially, in some of the Spanish American countries, debtor held by his creditor in a form of qualified servitude, to work out a debt.
  • n. See 2d Pawn.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A day-laborer; specifically, in Spanish America, a species of serf, compelled to work for his creditor until his debts are paid.
  • n. In India: A foot-soldier.
  • n. A messenger; an attendant or orderly.
  • n. A native constable or policeman.
  • n. In chess, a piece representing a footman; a pawn.

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

  • n. a laborer who is obliged to do menial work

Etymologies

Spanish, day laborer, from Medieval Latin pedō, pedōn-, foot soldier; see pioneer. Sense 3, possibly from Portuguese peão, from Medieval Latin pedō.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Spanish peón. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • In the USA peon is a demeaning term, but not in Mexico.

    House Progress

  • Either the peon is different from the American, or land hunger is one thing to the one and another thing to the other.

    The Trouble Makers of Mexico

  • The peon is an Indian, and a Mexican Indian at that.

    The Trouble Makers of Mexico

  • After thus tantalizing me and taking my measure, he called a peon, whom I found to be an easy boss, and I was placed beside himself digging and shoveling, took his gait, which was much more easy than the Southern darkey.

    The adventures of two Alabama boys,

  • Unfortunately, some idiot schmuck McCain/Palin peon underpaid, overworked employee at the County Recorder managed to enter my address incorrectly, and now I’m supposed to show up to vote in a totally new and different location, where my registration could quite possibly be challenged because it doesn’t match my ID.

    ALERT! Verify your voter registration status! « A Bird’s Nest

  • Desmond fancied he saw a slight smile curl the lips of the natives; then the sentry called another peon who stood at hand, and sent him into the palace.

    In Clive's Command A Story of the Fight for India

  • They went out and when they entered the first shed the Spaniard called a peon and gave him an order Dick did not catch.

    Brandon of the Engineers

  • Although I'm cringing at the term 'peon' and wish you'd have used a different word ... maybe a more modern one ...

    moving on down

  • AMLO had critizised him for been a "peon" in Zedillo's government (when he was Ministry of Health).

    La Profesora Abstraida

  • If Dr. Harpe dubbed him her "peon," she took care to treat him and his opinions with flattering deference.

    The Lady Doc

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