1. A wicked or evil person; a scoundrel.
2. A dramatic or fictional character who is typically at odds with the hero.
3. (also vĭlān′, vĭ-lān) Variant of villein.
4. Something said to be the cause of particular trouble or an evil: poverty, the villain in the increase of crime.
5. Obsolete A peasant regarded as vile and brutish.
[Middle English vilein, feudal serf, person of coarse feelings, from Old French, from Vulgar Latin *vīllānus, feudal serf, from Latin vīlla, country house; see weik-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.