“Yes, thus the Muses sing of happy swains,/Because the Muses never knew their pains.”*

*from: The Village: Book I (1783), by GEORGE CRABBE.

From Wikipedia:

“The term villain first came into English from the Anglo-French and Old French vilain, which is further derived from the Late Latin word villanus, which referred to those bound to the soil of the Villa and worked on an equivalent of a plantation in Late Antiquity, in Italy or Gaul.

Vilain later shifted to villein, which referred to a person of a less than knightly status, implying a lack of chivalry and politeness. All actions that were unchivalrous or evil (such as treachery or rape) eventually fell under the identity of belonging to a villain in the modern sense of the word. Additionally, villein became used as a term of abuse and eventually took on its modern meaning.

The landed aristocracy of Middle Age Europe used politically and linguistically the Middle English descendant of villanus meaning “villager” (styled as vilain or vilein) with the meaning “a person of uncouth mind and manners.” As the common equating of manners with morals gained in strength and currency, the connotations worsened, so that the modern word villain is no unpolished villager, but is instead (among other things) a deliberate scoundrel or criminal.

At the very same time the medieval expression “vilein” or “vilain” is closely influenced by the word ´vile´, referring to something wicked or worthless. From late XIII Century Vile meant “morally repugnant; morally flawed, corrupt, wicked; of no value; of inferior quality; disgusting, foul, ugly; degrading, humiliating; of low estate, without worldly honor or esteem,” from Anglo-French ville, Old French vil ” from Latin vilis “cheap, worthless, of low value,” Although the relation of both terms only came intertwined later in time, it is unknown when did this terms come to be related to each other.

The word archenemy or arch-enemy originated around the mid-16th century, from the words arch- (from Greek ἄρχω archo meaning ‘to lead’) and enemy.

An archenemy may also be referred to as an archrival, archfoe, archvillain, or archnemesis. However, an archenemy may also be distinguished from a nemesis, with the latter being an enemy whom the hero cannot defeat (or who defeats the hero), even while not being a longstanding or consistent enemy to the hero.”

Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman wrote at grammarphobia.com on 26.6.14:

“As for the slang use of “villain” for a career criminal (the OED uses the phrase “professional criminal”), the earliest citation in the dictionary is from the Jan. 24, 1960, issue of the Observer:

“Suppose … a bogy did get it up for a villain now and again by making sure that some gear was found in his flat?” (A “bogy” is a detective or police officer in UK criminal slang.)

And here’s an example from Horse Under Water, a 1963 spy novel by Len Deighton: “This villain is doing a nice Cabinet Minister’s home.”.”

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