9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[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 villains
  • It is incredibly difficult to create fictional scientists who are neither insane villains nor cardboard heroes.
  • We follow the careers of two heroes and two villains.
  • Contemporary bow makers are determined not to become villains in a similar extinction drama.
  • In both books, villains plotted to sell the real paintings to collectors and pocket the proceeds.
  • Ask students individually or as a group to create fairy tales which feature one or more wolves-not depicted as villains.
  • Demetrius is one of the many casualties in a story full of villains, a surprising number of whom are college coaches.
  • Sometimes villains genuinely do not know that their behavior is illegal as well as immoral and frightening to the horses.
  • Advice about avoiding villains is only helpful up to a point.
  • Its gangster villains run a vending machine concern.
  • One of the more amusing things about the film is the way it treats its villains.
British Dictionary definitions for villains


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
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 villains



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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