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in English history, a class intermediate between the gentry and the labourers; a yeoman was usually a landholder but could also be a retainer, guard, attendant, or subordinate official. The word appears in Middle English as yemen, or yoman, and is perhaps a contraction of yeng man or yong man, meaning young man, or attendant. Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (late 14th century) depicts a yeoman who is a forester and a retainer. Most yeomen of the later Middle Ages were probably occupied in cultivating the land; Raphael Holinshed, in his Chronicles (1577), described them as having free land worth 6 (originally 40 shillings) annually and as not being entitled to bear arms