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From Middle English chatel, borrowed from Old French chatel, from Medieval Latin capitāle (English capital), from Latin capitālis (of the head), from caput (head) + -alis (-al). Compare the doublet cattle (cows), which is from an Anglo-Norman variant. Compare also capital and kith and kine (all one’s possessions), which also use “cow” to mean “property”.


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chattel (plural chattels)

  1. Tangible, movable property.
    • 1990, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, Corgi, p.387
      … although of course the firm had changed hands many times over the centuries, […] But the box has always been part of the chattels, as it were.
  2. A slave.
    • 1955, Not all his servants and chattels are wraiths! — JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring [Book 2, Chapter 1 - Many Meetings]

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