A peasant is a member of a traditional class of farmers, either laborers or owners of small farms, especially in the Middle Ages under feudalism, or more generally, in any pre-industrial society. In Europe, peasants were divided into three classes according to their personal status: slave, serf, and freeman. Peasants either hold title to land in fee simple, or hold land by any of several forms of land tenure, among them socage, quit-rent, leasehold, and copyhold.
Peasants typically made up the majority of the agricultural labour force in a pre-industrial society. The majority of the people in the Middle Ages were peasants.
Though “peasant” is a word of loose application, once a market economy had taken root, the term peasant proprietors was frequently used to describe the traditional rural population in countries where smallholders farmed much of the land. More generally, the word “peasant” is sometimes used to refer pejoratively to those considered to be “lower class”, perhaps defined by poorer education and/or a lower income.