1 : a trusted follower : a right-hand man
2 : a political follower whose support is chiefly for personal advantage
3 : a member of a gang
The play opens with the main character, a gangster, onstage surrounded by his henchmen.
"[U.S. Attorney George E.Q.] Johnson vigorously took the fight to Capone and his henchmen, successfully prosecuting Capone's brother Ralph, Frank Nitti, the Guzik brothers Harry and Sam, and the beer barons Terry Druggan and Frankie Lake." -- From an article by Stephan Benzkofer in the Chicago Tribune, January 15, 2012
Did You Know?
The earliest known examples of today's word 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.
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