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peon

1
[ pee-uh n, pee-on ]
/ ˈpi ən, ˈpi ɒn /
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noun

(in Spanish America) a farm worker or unskilled laborer; day laborer.
(formerly, especially in Mexico) a person held in servitude to work off debts or other obligations.
any person of low social status, especially one who does work regarded as menial or unskilled; drudge.

RELATED WORDS

slave, servant, serf, peasant, drudge, laborer, gopher, farmhand

Nearby words

penutian, penza, penzance, penzias, penzias, arno allan, peon, peonage, peony, people, people carrier, people mover

Origin of peon

1
1820–30; < Spanish peón peasant, day laborer < Vulgar Latin *pedōn- (stem of *pedō) walker (whence Medieval Latin pedōnēs infantry, Old French peon pawn2), derivative of Latin ped- (stem of pēs) foot
Can be confusedpaean paeon peon

Definition for peon (2 of 2)

peon

2
[ pee-uh n, pee-on ]
/ ˈpi ən, ˈpi ɒn /

noun (in India and Sri Lanka)

a messenger, attendant, or orderly.
a foot soldier or police officer.

Origin of peon

2
1600–10; < Portuguese peão, French pion foot soldier, pedestrian, day laborer. See peon1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for peon

British Dictionary definitions for peon (1 of 2)

peon

1
/ (ˈpiːən, ˈpiːɒn) /

noun

a Spanish-American farm labourer or unskilled worker
(formerly in Spanish America) a debtor compelled to work off his debts
any very poor person

Word Origin for peon

C19: from Spanish peón peasant, from Medieval Latin pedō man who goes on foot, from Latin pēs foot; compare Old French paon pawn ²

British Dictionary definitions for peon (2 of 2)

peon

2
/ (pjuːn, ˈpiːən, ˈpiːɒn) /

noun (in India, Sri Lanka, etc, esp formerly)

a messenger or attendant, esp in an office
a native policeman
a foot soldier

Word Origin for peon

C17: from Portuguese peão orderly; see peon 1
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 peon

peon


n.

unskilled worker, 1826, from Mexican Spanish peon "agricultural laborer" (especially a debtor held in servitude by his creditor), from Spanish peon "day laborer," also "pedestrian," originally "foot soldier," from Medieval Latin pedonem "foot soldier" (see pawn (n.2)). The word entered British English earlier (c.1600) in the sense "native constable, soldier, or messenger in India," via Portuguese peao "pedestrian, foot soldier, day laborer."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper