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[vil-uh n, -eyn, vi-leyn] /ˈvɪl ən, -eɪn, vɪˈleɪn/
a member of a class of partially free persons under the feudal system, who were serfs with respect to their lord but had the rights and privileges of freemen with respect to others.
Also, villain.
Origin of villein
Middle English word dating back to 1275-1325; See origin at villain
Can be confused
villain, villein. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for villein
Historical Examples
  • The Anguissola were his family, and their honour was his honour, since as a villein he had no honour of his own.

    The Strolling Saint Raphael Sabatini
  • His right to the land, in fact, was not freehold, but tenure by villein socage.

    The Philippine Islands John Foreman
  • And is it really true that a villein with you can rise to be a noble?

    Harold, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • Can the overlord rede the heart of the villein that feedeth him?

    Long Will Florence Converse
  • In five months I were a free man, he said, but to-day I am this man's villein.

    Long Will Florence Converse
  • There were three awake, the beggar, a villein, and the youngest soldier.

    Long Will Florence Converse
  • I 'll be sworn thou 'rt no villein, said the priest, very grim.

    Long Will Florence Converse
  • Thus at Mildenhall, in 1381, a villein pays for his land nearly 1s.

  • The villein 73 and his oxen were all housed under one roof at first.

  • An apprentice, a miner, hired laborer, serf or a villein is not a slave.

    The Slavery Question John Lawrence
British Dictionary definitions for villein


(in medieval Europe) a peasant personally bound to his lord, to whom he paid dues and services, sometimes commuted to rents, in return for his land
Word Origin
C14: from Old French vilein serf; see villain
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 villein

early 14c., spelling variant of villain, referring to a feudal class of half-free peasants.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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