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[vil-uh n] /ˈvɪl ən/
a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel.
a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot.
Origin of villain
1275-1325; Middle English vilein, vilain < Middle French < Late Latin villānus a farm servant. See villa, -an
Related forms
subvillain, noun
undervillain, noun
Can be confused
villain, villein.
1. knave, rascal, rapscallion, rogue, scamp. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for villain
  • Softer imaginations blame a vaguer villain: workshop process among tables of people-pleasers.
  • What worries me in some of these debates is that student-loan debt of any amount is portrayed as the villain.
  • Sometimes it can turn a muddy scene into one in which you become the villain.
  • When a project comes in over budget and way past schedule, poor management could be the villain.
  • In many of these cases, poor blood circulation is the villain.
  • For others, he is a villain, the guy who destroyed the game for everyone else.
  • Too often films nowadays attempt to make the villain attractive.
  • Populism usually arises from a general discontent that precedes the identification of a specific villain.
  • Giving voice to the villain presents quite the acting challenge.
  • Albinos are bothered that one of their own has yet again been depicted as a villain.
British Dictionary definitions for villain


a wicked or malevolent person
(in a novel, play, film, etc) the main evil character and antagonist to the hero
(often jocular) a mischievous person; rogue
(Brit, police slang) a criminal
(history) a variant spelling of villein
(obsolete) an uncouth person; boor
Derived Forms
villainess, noun:feminine
Word Origin
C14: from Old French vilein serf, from Late Latin vīllānus worker on a country estate, from Latin: villa


(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
Word Origin
C14: from Old French vilein serf; see villain
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 villain

c.1300, "base or low-born rustic," from Anglo-French and Old French villain, from Medieval Latin villanus "farmhand," from Latin villa "country house" (see villa).

The most important phases of the sense development of this word may be summed up as follows: 'inhabitant of a farm; peasant; churl, boor; clown; miser; knave, scoundrel.' Today both Fr. vilain and Eng. villain are used only in a pejorative sense. [Klein]
Meaning "character in a novel, play, etc. whose evil motives or actions help drive the plot" is from 1822.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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