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 formssub·vil·lain, nounun·der·vil·lain, noun
Can be confusedvillain villein

Synonyms for villain Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for villain

Contemporary Examples of villain

Historical Examples of villain

  • I never in my life saw any harm done by a villain; I wish I could.


    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
British police slang a criminal
history a variant spelling of villein
obsolete an uncouth person; boor
Derived Formsvillainess, fem n

Word Origin for villain

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

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