hench·​man | \ˈhench-mən \

Definition of henchman 

1 obsolete : a squire or page to a person of high rank

2a : a trusted follower : a right-hand man

b : a political follower whose support is chiefly for personal advantage

c : a member of a gang

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

The earliest known examples of henchman in written English show it being used as a term for a squire or a page, but the word may have seen earlier use with the meaning "groom." It first appeared in Middle English at the beginning of the 15th century and is a combination of Old English hengest ("a male horse") and man. In the late 1700s, henchman began to be used for the personal attendant of a Scottish Highland chief. This sense, made familiar to many English readers by Sir Walter Scott, led to the word's use in the broader sense of "right-hand man," which in turn evolved into the other meanings.

Examples of henchman in a Sentence

a gangster surrounded by his henchmen

Recent Examples on the Web

In the subgenre of movies about Nazi hunters and Holocaust revenge-seekers, fugitive henchmen of Hitler represent monsters in hiding, having melted into society as the world moved on. John Jurgensen, WSJ, "In ‘Operation Finale,’ Another Nazi Gets His Comeuppance," 27 Aug. 2018 Meanwhile, Albuquerque's drug world, the rivalry between traffickers Gus Fring and Hector Salamanca and their respective, frightening henchmen, begins to take center stage in the new episodes. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, "Better Call Saul," 3 Aug. 2018 Anyone with a smidgen of knowledge about healthcare understood that the right-to-try legislation signed by President Trump on Wednesday was a scam, perpetrated by the Koch brothers and their henchmen. Michael Hiltzik, latimes.com, "GOP senator reveals the truth: Right-to-try bill was a scam tailored to harm public health," 4 June 2018 Stalin and his henchmen targeted spies, wreckers and counter-revolutionaries in every corner of Soviet society, but especially among his rivals, real or imagined, within the Communist Party. Will Englund, Washington Post, "Why Trump’s ‘enemy of the people’ bluster can’t be compared to Stalin’s savage rule," 17 Jan. 2018 The Silence of Others chronicles a growing grassroots campaign among victims of the old regime who are seeking to overturn the Amnesty Law and drag Franco's surviving henchmen to justice. Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Silence of Others': Film Review | Berlin 2018," 21 Feb. 2018 And, because Trump still doesn’t realize that the employees of the DOJ are not his personal henchmen, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) tweeted a word just to remind the president how this works. Stephen A. Crockett Jr., The Root, "Trump’s Bullying of the Justice Department Again Must Mean the Russia Investigation Is Heating Up," 21 May 2018 Numan Acar: plays Nakim, head of the palace guards and one of Jafar's henchmen. Sydney Odman, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Aladdin': Everything to Know About the Live-Action Remake of the Disney Classic," 5 July 2018 His henchmen that day had killed a U.S. congressman and others who'd come to Jonestown to investigate charges of abuse. Will Higgins, Indianapolis Star, "She woke up in Jonestown — everyone was dead," 13 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'henchman.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of henchman

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for henchman

Middle English henshman, hengestman groom, from hengest stallion (from Old English) + man; akin to Old High German hengist gelding

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about henchman

Listen to Our Podcast about henchman

Statistics for henchman

Last Updated

30 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for henchman

The first known use of henchman was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for henchman



English Language Learners Definition of henchman

: a trusted follower or supporter who performs unpleasant, wrong, or illegal tasks for a powerful person (such as a politician or criminal)


hench·​man | \ˈhench-mən \
plural henchmen\-​mən \

Kids Definition of henchman

: a trusted follower or supporter and especially someone who performs unpleasant or illegal tasks

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on henchman

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with henchman

Spanish Central: Translation of henchman

Nglish: Translation of henchman for Spanish Speakers

Comments on henchman

What made you want to look up henchman? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to enclose within walls

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!