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[pee-uh n, pee-on] /ˈpi ən, ˈpi ɒn/
(in Spanish America) a farm worker or unskilled laborer; day laborer.
(formerly, especially in Mexico) a person held in servitude to work off debts or other obligations.
any person of low social status, especially one who does work regarded as menial or unskilled; drudge.
Origin of peon1
1820-30; < Spanish peón peasant, day laborer < Vulgar Latin *pedōn- (stem of *pedō) walker (whence Medieval Latin pedōnēs infantry, Old French peon pawn2), derivative of Latin ped- (stem of pēs) foot
Can be confused
paean, paeon, peon.


[pee-uh n, pee-on] /ˈpi ən, ˈpi ɒn/
noun, (in India and Sri Lanka)
a messenger, attendant, or orderly.
a foot soldier or police officer.
1600-10; < Portuguese peão, French pion foot soldier, pedestrian, day laborer. See peon1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for peon
Historical Examples
  • It is the staff of life of the Mexican peon, and the making of tortillas is the chief vocation in life of his wife and daughters.

    On the Mexican Highlands William Seymour Edwards
  • A boat had been lowered, and was towing astern—for what purpose the peon did not know.

    The Call Of The South Louis Becke
  • To the first worldly shelter you sought—the peon's hut or the Alcalde's casa—you would have thought it necessary to bring a story.

  • They reach the spot where the peon was so late seen, striving to get into his saddle.

    The Lone Ranche Captain Mayne Reid
  • Just at that moment a peon announced Don Torribio, who entered the room.

    Stoneheart Gustave Aimard
  • This arrangement is all against the peon, and all in favor of the employer.

    Aztec Land Maturin M. Ballou
  • Explain, said Don Antonio, looking first at Adrian and then at the peon.

  • The school is as free to the son of a peon as to him with the richest of parents.

    Aztec Land Maturin M. Ballou
  • We could see the peon in the howdah leaning over the front bar, and eagerly peering into the recesses of the thicket before him.

  • That, peon, is something you'll have to find out for yourself.

    The Status Civilization Robert Sheckley
British Dictionary definitions for peon


/ˈpiːən; ˈpiːɒn/
a Spanish-American farm labourer or unskilled worker
(formerly in Spanish America) a debtor compelled to work off his debts
any very poor person
Word Origin
C19: from Spanish peón peasant, from Medieval Latin pedō man who goes on foot, from Latin pēs foot; compare Old French paonpawn²


/pjuːn; ˈpiːən; ˈpiːɒn/
noun (in India, Sri Lanka, etc, esp formerly)
a messenger or attendant, esp in an office
a native policeman
a foot soldier
Word Origin
C17: from Portuguese peão orderly; see peon1
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 peon

unskilled worker, 1826, from Mexican Spanish peon "agricultural laborer" (especially a debtor held in servitude by his creditor), from Spanish peon "day laborer," also "pedestrian," originally "foot soldier," from Medieval Latin pedonem "foot soldier" (see pawn (n.2)). The word entered British English earlier (c.1600) in the sense "native constable, soldier, or messenger in India," via Portuguese peao "pedestrian, foot soldier, day laborer."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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peon in Technology

A person with no special (root or wheel) privileges on a computer system. "I can't create an account on foovax for you; I'm only a peon there."
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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