In Plato's dialogue titled Euthydemus, he used the word 'villain' in the derogatory sense to describe a dog. However, the OED agrees that 'villain' came into common use because of the lower social status of Velleins who were tenet farmers in the feudal manors who of course didn't come about for some time.

Can anyone explain this to me? Is it a translation issue, and if it is, are there any other words in English that this might also be close to?

1 Answer 1


I think generally, if you have questions about the word usage in any ancient text, you should check out the original on the Perseus project. In the case you raise, Plato never used the word "villain," that was a choice of the English translater. Plato uses the Greek:

μάλα πονηρός

The word "πονηρός" can be translated in numerous ways, the Greek dictionary on the Perseus project gives a few of them:

  1. Useless
  2. Good for nothing
  3. Worthless
  4. Knave
  5. Cowardly

The point of the remark is to explain the subsequent comments from Ctesippus concerning why he treats his dog so poorly, that is, because his dog isn't a very good one.

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