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From Latin plēbēius (a commoner; common) + -an (forming adjectives), from Latin plēbēs + -ius (forming adjectives), possibly under the influence of Middle French plebeyen, plebein, plebien (a commoner) and plebeien (concerning the common people). Cf. Medieval Latin plēbēiānus (a commoner), from plēbēius + -ānus.


  • IPA(key): /pliˈbiːən/, /plɛˈbiːən/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iːən


plebeian (plural plebeians)

  1. (historical, Ancient Rome) A member of the plebs, the common citizens of ancient Rome.
    Synonyms: commoner, pleb, plebe
    Antonym: patrician
  2. A commoner, particularly (derogatory) a low, vulgar person.
    Synonyms: commoner, villain, peasant, nobody
    Antonyms: noble, aristocrat
    • c. 1550, Robert Wedderburn, The Complaynt of Scotlande..., Ch. xv, p. 102:
      There blude... vald hef na bettir cullour nor the blude of ane plebien or of ane mecanik craftis man.
    • 1748. David Hume. Enquiries concerning the human understanding and concerning the principles of moral. London: Oxford University Press, 1973. § 3.
      The feelings of our heart, the agitation of our passions, the vehemence of our affections, dissipate all its conclusions, and reduce the profound philosopher to a mere plebeian.

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plebeian (comparative more plebeian, superlative most plebeian)

  1. (historical) Of or concerning the plebs, the common citizens of ancient Rome.
    • 1566, William Painter, The Palace of Pleasure Beautified, Vol. I, Ch. iv, fol. 9 verso:
      To what purpose be the plebeian Magistrates ordeined?
  2. Of or concerning the common people.
    • 1602, William Watson, A Decacordon of Ten Quodlibeticall Questions, p. 301:
      ...priuate person or plebian multitude...
  3. Common, particularly (derogatory) vulgar, crude, coarse, uncultured.
    • 1615, Robert Armin, The Valiant Welshman, Vol. i, Ch. i, sig. B:
      For to plebeyan wits, it is as good,
      As to be silent, as not vnderstood.
    • 1953, Arthur Hamilton (lyrics and music), “Cry Me a River”:
      [] told me love was too plebeian / told me you were through with me
    • 2016 September 8, Andrew Cunningham, “The $10,000 golden Apple Watch is no more”, in Arstechnica[1]:
      Completely absent was any mention of the Apple Watch Edition branding, which Apple used last year to launch a pair of $10,000-and-up Apple Watches that worked the same way as the cheap ones but were made out of actual gold instead of workaday, plebeian metals.



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From French plébéien.


plebeian m or n (feminine singular plebeiană, masculine plural plebeieni, feminine and neuter plural plebeiene)

  1. plebeian