• synonyms


[vil-uh n, -eyn, vi-leyn]
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  1. 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.
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Also villain.

Origin of villein

Middle English word dating back to 1275–1325; see origin at villain
Can be confusedvillain villein
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


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.

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for villein



  1. (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
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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

Word Origin and History for villein


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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper