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Origin of the Word "Villain"

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The etymology of the word is probably from Middle English villein from Old French villain, in turn from Late Latin villanus, meaning "serf" or "peasant," someone who is bound to the soil of a villa, which is to say, worked on the equivalent of a plantation in late Antiquity, in Italy or Gaul. Consequently, it meant a person of less than knightly status, and so came to mean a person who was not chivalrous; because many unchivalrous acts, such as treachery, are villainous in the modern sense, and because the word was used as a term of abuse, it took on its modern meaning.

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