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henchman

[hench-muh n] /ˈhɛntʃ mən/
noun, plural henchmen.
1.
an unscrupulous and ruthless subordinate, especially a criminal:
The leader of the gang went everywhere accompanied by his henchmen.
2.
an unscrupulous supporter or adherent of a political figure or cause, especially one motivated by the hope of personal gain:
Hitler and his henchmen.
3.
a trusted attendant, supporter, or follower.
4.
Obsolete. a squire or page.
Origin
1325-1375
1325-75; Middle English henchman, henshman, henksman, hengestman, Old English hengest stallion (cognate with German Hengst) + man man1
Related forms
henchmanship, noun
Synonyms
2. flunky, lackey, cohort.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for henchman-ship

henchman

/ˈhɛntʃmən/
noun (pl) -men
1.
a faithful attendant or supporter
2.
(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-ship

henchman

n.

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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18
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