a. The class of industrial wage earners who, possessing neither capital nor production means, must earn their living by selling their labor.
b. The poorest class of working people.
2. The propertyless class of ancient Rome, constituting the lowest class of citizens.
[French prolétariat, from Latin prōlētārius, belonging to the lowest class of Roman citizens; see PROLETARIAN.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.