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The word “peasant” appears in English in late medieval and early modern times, when it was
used to refer to the rural poor, rural residents, serfs, agricultural laborers, and the “common”
or “simple” people. As a verb in that period, “to peasant” meant to subjugate someone as a
peasant is subjugated. Earlier Latin and Latinate forms (French, Castilian, Catalan, Occitan,
etc.) date as far back as the sixth century and denoted a rural inhabitant, whether or not
involved in agriculture. Very early on, both the English “peasant,” the French “paysan” and
similar terms sometimes connoted “rustic,” “ignorant,” “stupid,” “crass” and “rude,” among
many other pejorative terms.4 The word could also imply criminality, as in thirteenth-century
Germany where “‘peasant’ meant ‘villain, rustic, devil, robber, brigand and looter.”5