AskDefine | Define peasant

Dictionary Definition



1 a country person [syn: provincial, bucolic]
2 one of a (chiefly European) class of agricultural laborers
3 a crude uncouth ill-bred person lacking culture or refinement [syn: barbarian, boor, churl, Goth, tyke, tike]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˈpɛzənt/, /"pEz@nt/


From Middle English paissaunt, from Middle French paisant, from Old French païs, country, from Late Latin pagensis, "inhabitant of a district", from Latin pagus, district


peasant (plural: peasants)
  1. A member of the class constituted by small farmers and tenants, sharecroppers, and laborers on the land where they form the main labor force in agriculture.
  2. A country person; a rustic.
  3. An uncouth, crude, or ill-bred person; a boor.
  4. (strategy games) a worker unit (Synonyms: peon, serf, villager)

Derived terms


a member of the agriculture class
a country person; a rustic
an uncouth, crude, or ill-bred person; a boor
(strategy games) a worker unit

Extensive Definition

Not to be confused with pheasants. The relative position of Western European peasants was greatly improved after the Black Death unsettled medieval Europe, granting far greater economic and political power to those peasants fortunate enough to survive the cataclysm.
In the wake of this disruption to the established hierarchy, later centuries saw the invention of the original printing presses, widespread literacy and the enormous social and intellectual changes of the Enlightenment.
This evolution of ideas in an environment of relatively widespread literacy laid the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution, which enabled mechanically and chemically augmented agricultural production while simultaneously increasing the demand for factory workers in cities. These factory workers with their low skill and large numbers quickly came to occupy the same socio-economic stratum as the original medieval peasants.
This was especially pronounced in Eastern Europe. Lacking any catalysts for change in the 14th century, Eastern European peasants largely continued upon the original medieval path until the 18th and 19th centuries. The Tsars then began to notice that the West had made enormous strides they had not, responding by forcing the largely illiterate peasant populations under their control to embark upon a Westernization and industrialization campaign.
Peter the Great initiated a half-successful attempt to force more than 500 years' worth of social change in the space of a few generations. Modernization of agriculture in Eastern Europe and Russia was not achieved until after the October Revolution.

Notes and references

peasant in German: Landarbeiter
peasant in French: paysan
peasant in Polish: chłopi
peasant in Romanian: Ţăran
peasant in Russian: Крестьянин
peasant in Dutch: Boer
peasant in Chinese: 农民

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Babbitt, Bauer, Philistine, agriculturalist, agriculturist, agrologist, agronomist, arriviste, boor, bounder, bourgeois, bucolic, bumpkin, cad, churl, clod, clodhopper, clown, coffee-planter, collective farm worker, country, country bumpkin, countryman, countrywoman, crofter, cropper, cultivator, dirt farmer, dry farmer, epicier, farm laborer, farmer, farmhand, fellah, galoot, gentleman farmer, granger, groundling, grower, guttersnipe, harvester, harvestman, haymaker, hayseed, hick, hind, hooligan, husbandman, ill-bred fellow, kibbutznik, kolkhoznik, kulak, looby, lout, low fellow, lump, mucker, muzhik, nouveau riche, oaf, parvenu, peasant holder, peon, picker, planter, plowboy, plowman, provincial, raiser, rancher, ranchman, reaper, ribald, rough, roughneck, rowdy, rube, ruffian, rustic, serf, sharecropper, sower, swain, tea-planter, tenant farmer, tiller, tree farmer, truck farmer, upstart, vulgarian, vulgarist, yeoman, yokel
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