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[hench-muh n] /ˈhɛntʃ mən/
noun, plural henchmen.
an unscrupulous and ruthless subordinate, especially a criminal:
The leader of the gang went everywhere accompanied by his henchmen.
an unscrupulous supporter or adherent of a political figure or cause, especially one motivated by the hope of personal gain:
Hitler and his henchmen.
a trusted attendant, supporter, or follower.
Obsolete. a squire or page.
Origin of henchman
1325-75; Middle English henchman, henshman, henksman, hengestman, Old English hengest stallion (cognate with German Hengst) + man man1
Related forms
henchmanship, noun
2. flunky, lackey, cohort. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for henchman
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • As Zabern spoke he moved slightly to one side, in order to screen the movements of his henchman.

    The Shadow of the Czar John R. Carling
  • It was not the Samurai but the henchman who was weak and wrong.

  • Methinks the wicked lord's heart gave a throb of fear, as he hurried out to the gate to meet his henchman.

    Tales From Scottish Ballads Elizabeth W. Grierson
  • And Mrs. henchman answered as Gertrude had meant she should.

    The Girls of St. Olave's Mabel Mackintosh
  • And now Boarface rushed in again and as the axes came together called to his henchman to strike more surely.

    The Story of Ab Stanley Waterloo
  • No henchman he worthied by weapons, if witness his features, his peerless presence!

    Beowulf Anonymous
  • I'm nothin' but a plain cow hand from the Brazos; but I don't take 'henchman' from nobody!

    Heart's Desire Emerson Hough
British Dictionary definitions for henchman


noun (pl) -men
a faithful attendant or supporter
(archaic) a squire; page
Word Origin
C14: hengestman, from Old English hengest stallion + man; related to Old Norse hestr horse, Old High German hengist gelding
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
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Word Origin and History for henchman

mid-14c., hengestman, later henshman (mid-15c.) "high-ranking servant (usually of gentle birth), attendant upon a king, nobleman, etc.," originally "groom," probably from man (n.) + Old English hengest "horse, stallion, gelding," from Proto-Germanic *hangistas (cf. Old Frisian hengst, Dutch hengest, German Hengst "stallion"), perhaps literally "best at springing," from PIE *kenku- (cf. Greek kekiein "to gush forth;" Lithuanian sokti "to jump, dance;" Breton kazek "a mare," literally "that which belongs to a stallion").

Perhaps modeled on Old Norse compound hesta-maðr "horse-boy, groom." The word became obsolete in England but was retained in Scottish as "personal attendant of a Highland chief," in which sense Scott revived it in literary English from 1810. Sense of "obedient or unscrupulous follower" is first recorded 1839, probably based on a misunderstanding of the word as used by Scott.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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