[vil-uh n, -eyn, vi-leyn]
- 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.
Origin of villein
Middle English word dating back to 1275–1325; see origin at villain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for villein
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
His right to the land, in fact, was not freehold, but tenure by villein socage.The Philippine Islands
And is it really true that a villein with you can rise to be a noble?Harold, Complete
Can the overlord rede the heart of the villein that feedeth him?
In five months I were a free man, he said, but to-day I am this man's 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
C14: from Old French vilein serf; see villain
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