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Peon

From Academic Kids

The word peon is derived from the Spanish peón, in its archaic root connoting a person who travels by foot rather than mounted on a horse (see caballero), and the derivation peonage are English words which have a variety of related meanings:

In Spanish-speaking countries, especially those in Latin America, where the hacienda system kept laborers unfree to leave the estate, peon has a range of meanings related to unskilled or semi-skilled work or manual labour, whether referring to a low-status wage earner in a variety of rural and urban industries (especially a day labourer or a servant); a peasant; a bullfighter's assistant, or, historically, someone subject to forms of unfree labour (see debt bondage and indenture).

In the United States, in a historical and legal sense, peon generally has only the latter meaning, i.e. someone working in various unfree labour systems, known collectively in the US as "peonage", especially debt bondage.

More generally, in the English-speaking world the term is used colloquially indicate any employee or soldier with little authority, often assigned unskilled or drudgerous tasks. In this sense peon can be used in a either derogatory or self-effacing fashion, depending on the context.

In computing slang, a peon is someone with no special (root or wheel) privileges on a computer system -- also known as a luser or, officially, an "unprivileged user".

In South Asian English, a peon is usually an office boy, an attendant, or an orderly, a person kept around for odd jobs (and historically, it also means a policeman or foot soldier). It is also strongly derogatory.

(In an unrelated South Asian sense, "peon" may also be an alternative spelling for poon trees or wood, genus Calophyllum, especially those used in boat building.)

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