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felon1

[fel-uh n]
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noun
  1. Law. a person who has committed a felony.
  2. Archaic. a wicked person.
adjective
  1. Archaic. wicked; malicious; treacherous.

Origin of felon1

1250–1300; Middle English fel(o)un “wicked, wicked person, evildoer,” from Old French fel (nominative), felun (oblique) “wicked person, traitor,” from Medieval Latin fellon-, stem of fello “villain, evildoer”; ultimate etymology uncertain

Usage note

Once a person is no longer engaged in crime we can say "He's a former criminal." And once a person is no longer incarcerated, we can say "She's an ex-convict." Though both statements carry a stigma, they leave open the possibility that the people in question have changed their behavior. But this does not seem to be the case with the term felon , which appears to have no time limit. Once a person has been convicted of a felony, he or she can be considered a felon for life, according to the strict meaning of the word. (The term ex-felon , for example, is rarely used.) Advocates for the reform of our criminal justice system point out that this usage makes it even harder for rehabilitated former criminals to reintegrate into society and thereby turn away from a life of crime.

felon2

[fel-uh n]
noun
  1. an acute and painful inflammation of the deeper tissues of a finger or toe, usually near the nail: a form of whitlow.

Origin of felon2

1375–1425; late Middle English felo(u)n < Medieval Latin fellōn- (stem of fellō) scrofulous tumor, of uncertain origin
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for felon

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • They may arrest me as a felon—at any rate I shall be forced to leave the bank and go away.

    Thoroughbreds

    W. A. Fraser

  • It seemed a lifetime that he had lived in the noisome atmosphere of a felon's cell.

    Thoroughbreds

    W. A. Fraser

  • No man at last believes that he can be lost, nor that the crime in him is as black as in the felon.

    Essays, Second Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • His dear friend, a felon, taken in open fight by a British cruiser!

    Roland Cashel

    Charles James Lever

  • You must not leave me—you shall not—I am not to be deserted for the sake of a felon!

    Luttrell Of Arran

    Charles James Lever


British Dictionary definitions for felon

felon1

noun
  1. criminal law (formerly) a person who has committed a felony
  2. obsolete a wicked person
adjective
  1. archaic, or poetic evil; cruel

Word Origin

C13: from Old French: villain, from Medieval Latin fellō, of uncertain origin

felon2

noun
  1. a purulent inflammation of the end joint of a finger, sometimes affecting the bone

Word Origin

C12: from Medieval Latin fellō sore, perhaps from Latin fel poison
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for felon

n.

late 13c., from Old French felon "evil-doer, scoundrel, traitor, rebel, the Devil" (9c.), from Medieval Latin fellonem (nominative fello) "evil-doer," of uncertain origin, perhaps from Frankish *fillo, *filljo "person who whips or beats, scourger" (cf. Old High German fillen "to whip"); or from Latin fel "gall, poison," on the notion of "one full of bitterness."

Another theory (advanced by Professor R. Atkinson of Dublin) traces it to Latin fellare "to suck" (see fecund), which had an obscene secondary meaning in classical Latin (well-known to readers of Martial and Catullus), which would make a felon etymologically a "cock-sucker." OED inclines toward the "gall" explanation, but finds Atkinson's "most plausible" of the others.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

felon in Medicine

felon

(fĕlən)
n.
  1. A purulent infection or abscess involving the bulbous distal end of a finger.whitlow
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.