Word of the Week (193): CARLOT (probability 4538), by David Sutton

No, a CARLOT is not a place where cars are kept, but is a Shakespearean word for a churl or peasant, deriving from the Old Norse karl, a man, and related to CARL, CARLINE and CARLISH.

The word peasant now has derogatory overtones, but historically it just means one of a lowly class of smallholders, who at least was one up from a serf. As one might expect for such a basic human occupation, there are quite a few other words on the list for this occupation. Scots gives us COTTAR or COTTER, a mediaeval peasant inhabiting a cottage. From Italy, we have CONTADINO, a male peasant, which takes only the correct Italian plural CONTADINI, and CONTADINA, a female peasant, which takes either the correct Italian plural CONTADINE or the anglicised plural CONTADINAS.

Spanish gives us CAMPESINO, a Latin American peasant farmer, with plural CAMPESINOS.

A FELLAH is an Egyptian peasant: here we have choice of plurals FELLAHS, FELLAHEEN or FELLAHIN.

India gives us RYOT or RAIYAT, and the system of peasantry there is called RYOTWARI or RAIYATWARI.

From Russia comes the MOUJIK, MUJIK, MUZHIK or MUZJIK. A KULAK was a better off sort of Russian peasant, but they as a class were largely killed off in Stalinist purges under Communism, being regarded as class traitors.

Note also the various archaic spellings of peasant: PESANT, PESAUNT and PEZANT.


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