Definitions

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

  • adj. Of or relating to the common people of ancient Rome: a plebeian magistrate.
  • adj. Of, belonging to, or characteristic of commoners.
  • adj. Unrefined or coarse in nature or manner; common or vulgar: plebeian tastes.
  • n. One of the common people of ancient Rome.
  • n. A member of the lower classes.
  • n. A vulgar or coarse person.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Of or pertaining to the Roman plebs, or common people.
  • adj. Of or pertaining to the common people; vulgar; common; as plebeian sports;
  • n. One of the plebs, or common people of ancient Rome, in distinction from patrician.
  • n. One of the common people, or lower rank of men.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Of or pertaining to the Roman plebs, or common people.
  • adj. Of or pertaining to the common people; vulgar; common
  • n. One of the plebs, or common people of ancient Rome, in distinction from patrician.
  • n. One of the common people, or lower rank of men.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of or pertaining to or characteristic of the plebs or common people; vulgar.
  • Belonging to the lower ranks.
  • n. One of the common people or lower ranks: first applied to the common people of ancient Rome, comprising those free citizens who were not descended from the original or patrician families. See plebs.

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

  • n. one of the common people
  • adj. of or associated with the great masses of people

Etymologies

From Latin plēbius, from plēbs, plēb-, the common people; see pelə-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Latin plebeius, from plebs, plebis ("the common people"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The term plebeian is used in this study in the sense that it was defined by E.P. Thompson in his discussion of eighteenth-century English society.

    Gutenber-e Help Page

  • The trait in her to which he took most frequent and violent exception was what he called her plebeian caution; she seemed determined to pay due and conventional respect to appearances.

    Gänsemännchen. English

  • Among the aristocracy and middle class, primogeniture and tail male were generally favored; but within plebeian or working-class communities, daughters frequently inherited on a relatively equitable basis with sons, sometimes with sole use provisions to prevent the property from falling into the hands of sons-in-law.

    Gutenber-e Help Page

  • But the "Catholic = Irish" segment faltered within plebeian culture as many English Protestants were absorbed into the Catholic community.

    Gutenber-e Help Page

  • The greatest bar to women's participation was the common-law principle of coverture, although it should be noted that the status and authority of married women in plebeian families likely permitted them a good deal of behind-the-scenes involvement in any legal matters confronting their families.

    Gutenber-e Help Page

  • Such rhetoric made few incursions in plebeian culture because it clashed with the reality of women's lives.

    Gutenber-e Help Page

  • Still, bundling (parent-approved, pre-marital sex) and pre-marital pregnancy were tolerated within plebeian communities, provided couples were moving towards a stable family arrangement.

    Gutenber-e Help Page

  • The salvaging of items from wrecks, then, was one of numerous economic activities in plebeian households, and one in which women played roles as both salvagers and recyclers as they worked to make ends meet for their families. 55

    Gutenber-e Help Page

  • He belonged to a family of high rank and unbending pride which would brook no mésalliance, and yet wealth could no longer be considered secure except in plebeian hands.

    Indiana

  • a plebeian from the last to the first rank of society, supposes some qualifications above the level of the multitude.

    The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Comments

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  • You can avoid that problem by using the very satisfactory short form, pleb.

    December 14, 2010

  • I was quite strenuously informed the other day that the accent is on the second syllable. So it is. While looking this up, I realised I had been spelling it without the second e. How plebeian.

    December 14, 2010