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[vil-uh n] /ˈvɪl ən/
a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel.
a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot.
Origin of villain
1275-1325; Middle English vilein, vilain < Middle French < Late Latin villānus a farm servant. See villa, -an
Related forms
subvillain, noun
undervillain, noun
Can be confused
villain, villein.
1. knave, rascal, rapscallion, rogue, scamp. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for villain
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I never in my life saw any harm done by a villain; I wish I could.

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • He so humble, so aged, so loth to take our money—and yet a villain and a cheat.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The villain from whom I hired the outfit said it was complete.

  • And do you remember what I said to that villain, Jack Malyoe, that night as his boat went by us?

  • Well, if all they say is true, the villain has robbed one of his own best friends.

British Dictionary definitions for villain


a wicked or malevolent person
(in a novel, play, film, etc) the main evil character and antagonist to the hero
(often jocular) a mischievous person; rogue
(Brit, police slang) a criminal
(history) a variant spelling of villein
(obsolete) an uncouth person; boor
Derived Forms
villainess, noun:feminine
Word Origin
C14: from Old French vilein serf, from Late Latin vīllānus worker on a country estate, from Latin: villa
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
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Word Origin and History for villain

c.1300, "base or low-born rustic," from Anglo-French and Old French villain, from Medieval Latin villanus "farmhand," from Latin villa "country house" (see villa).

The most important phases of the sense development of this word may be summed up as follows: 'inhabitant of a farm; peasant; churl, boor; clown; miser; knave, scoundrel.' Today both Fr. vilain and Eng. villain are used only in a pejorative sense. [Klein]
Meaning "character in a novel, play, etc. whose evil motives or actions help drive the plot" is from 1822.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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