Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Wikipedia.


1. of, relating to, or characteristic of the common people, esp those of Rome
2. one of the common people, esp one of the Roman plebs



(1) A member of a class of free men in ancient Rome.

(2) A member of the lowest and poorest stratum of the population in the cities of Western Europe during the Middle Ages. Plebeians included impoverished guildsmen; unskilled workers and day laborers outside the guild system; vagrants, beggars, and other lumpen proletarians; and some journeymen. Plebeians became an especially important element in society as feudalism declined and capitalist relations arose. In this period the number of plebeians greatly increased and protoproletarian elements among plebeians began to play an ever-increasing role.

Owing to their heterogeneous social composition, the plebeians as a class behaved in various ways during social struggles. Although the lumpen-proletarian elements sometimes supported reactionary tendencies, the plebeians more often belonged to the left wing of popular movements. They were placed in an antagonistic position to the entire social system of the time by their total, or almost total, lack of property and by their difficult material circumstances. They were the main driving force in many of the urban revolts against the patriciate, the domination of the guild oligarchy, and burdensome taxation. Together with the poorest of the peasantry, the plebeians constituted the social base for movements that raised demands for egalitarian communism; these demands were put forth by leftwing Czech Taborites, the Anabaptists, and T. Münzer. The plebeians and peasants made up force that secured victory for the bourgeoisie in the early bourgeois revolutions.


Engels, F. “Krest’ianskaia voina ν Germanii.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch, 2nd ed., vol. 7.
References in periodicals archive ?
Scott distinguishes the artificiality of plebeian behaviour
Foremost among them was the growing disparity between the wealthy patricians on the one hand and the masses of plebeians and slaves on the other.
Indians living in the capital's center, while integrated in some respects into the plebeian class in that section of the city, were juridically separate from plebeians.
Plebeians (PLEE-bee-unz): members of the working class; commoners.
com/place/ancient-Rome) created to represent the plebeians , the commoners of ancient Rome, and helped balance the power of the upper classes in government.
We cannot overestimate the importance of the change effected in the Roman constitution by the creation of the plebeian tribunate," writes historian Philip Van Ness Myers.
16) The worlds of both protagonist and playwright are losing the sharp clarity of boundaries--the Oeconomic divisions between patrician and plebeian status, noble and ignoble occupations, honorable and base bodies, masculine and feminine genders--that Coriolanus requires in order to function.
As a plebeian OAP amongst the great English unwashed, I have found politics difficult to understand, with politicians striving to keep it that way.
5) When Slamm on June 13th announced his retirement from the New Era to start the daily Plebeian, he included paragraphs from the Aurora and the Evening Post that wished him success with the new enterprise and commented on his gentlemanly character, despite the abuse he had received--the New York Herald had been particularly brutal toward Slamm, turning his name into a byword, "Slamm, Bang, Ming & Co.
The common belief is that the first film critics disdained the plebeian nature of early cinema, yet Dada, Surrealism, and the Cinematic Effect challenges this assumption with evidence of a different reception.
They cast him as a heroic plebeian artist who died poor and was ignored by the public, and this myth has not been revised since.
RICH MAN POOR MAN tired lazy lavish extravagant eccentric crazy self-educated unschooled chic garish blunt crude democratic plebeian candid vulgar