In the U. S. Navy, this is a rating, or occupational specialty, responsible for administrative tasks such as typing, filing, processing documents and forms, keeping manuals up to date, and especially, serving as clerks to the commanding officer.

After the rank of E5, or Petty Officer Second Class, a yeoman may attempt to become a Legalman, the Navy's paralegals. A yeoman may also specialize in serving the administrative needs of admirals (much more emphasis on protocol and etiquitte here). These yeoman are called flag writers.

The Canterbury Tales Project (see also Geoffrey Chaucer)

Back to The Squire/The Yeoman/The Prioress

The Yeoman's Portrait

101: A yeman hadde he and servantz namo
102: At that tyme, for hym liste ride so,
103: And he was clad in cote and hood of grene.
104: A sheef of pecok arwes, bright and kene,
105: Under his belt he bar ful thriftily,
106: (wel koude he dresse his takel yemanly:
107: His arwes drouped noght with fetheres lowe)
108: And in his hand he baar a myghty bowe.
109: A not heed hadde he, with a broun visage.
110: Of wodecraft wel koude he al the usage.
111: Upon his arm he baar a gay bracer,
112: And by his syde a swerd and a bokeler,
113: And on that oother syde a gay daggere
114: Harneised wel and sharp as point of spere;
115: A cristopher on his brest of silver sheene.
116: An horn he bar, the bawdryk was of grene;
117: A forster was he, soothly, as I gesse.

The yeoman is third character introduced, and, like the squire before him, he is closely linked, both through association in time of war and social deference, to the knight, his master. The yeoman is not, however, a mere servant - he is freeborn and thus has many rights under the feudal system that a slave would not.

The yeoman plays many roles. He is the knight's only servant (a fact which demonstrates beyond doubt his master's unpretentious nature) and so has to act as a footman, scout, and forester. It is at this last that he is most skilled. His garb, all of green, marks him as a prototype Robin Hood-type figure, as do his 'peacock-flighted arrows', which he maintains in an ever-ready state of sharpness.

The yeoman is the appropriate conclusion to the first band of pilgrims, completing a trio of men who, with the possible exception of the squire, are, although secularly minded, possessed of a devotion to duty and their tasks that rivals that of the ordained members of their company.

Modern English translation from

A yeoman had he, nor more servants, no,
At that time, for he chose to travel so;
And he was clad in coat and hood of green.
A sheaf of peacock arrows bright and keen
Under his belt he bore right carefully
(Well could he keep his tackle yeomanly:
His arrows had no draggled feathers low),
And in his hand he bore a mighty bow.
A cropped head had he and a sun-browned face.
Of woodcraft knew he all the useful ways.
Upon his arm he bore a bracer gay,
And at one side a sword and buckler, yea,
And at the other side a dagger bright,
Well sheathed and sharp as spear point in the light;
On breast a Christopher of silver sheen.
He bore a horn in baldric all of green;
A forester he truly was, I guess.

Yeo"man (?), n.; pl. Yeomen (#). [OE. yoman, [yogh]eman, [yogh]oman; of uncertain origin; perhaps the first, syllable is akin to OFries. ga district, region, G. gau, OHG. gewi, gouwi, Goth. gawi. &root;100.]


A common man, or one of the commonly of the first or most respectable class; a freeholder; a man free born.

⇒ A yeoman in England is considered as next in order to the gentry. The word is little used in the United States, unless as a title in law proceedings and instruments, designating occupation, and this only in particular States.


A servant; a retainer.


A yeman hadde he and servants no mo. Chaucer.


A yeoman of the guard; also, a member of the yeomanry cavalry.


4. Naut.

An interior officer under the boatswain, gunner, or carpenters, charged with the stowage, account, and distribution of the stores.

Yeoman of the guard, one of the bodyguard of the English sovereign, consisting of the hundred yeomen, armed with partisans, and habited in the costume of the sixteenth century. They are members of the royal household.


© Webster 1913.

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