The word "caitiff" meaning Webster
's sense 2 (Base; wicked and mean; cowardly; despicable
) comes from the medieval Latin
phrase "Captivus diaboli", that is "Prisoner of the devil". This phrase was used to address heretic
s and other people ruled out of the civil society
This meaning has passed to some neo-Latin languages like Italian where the word cattivo does not have the correct Latin meaning of prisoner but rather of an evil person as first meaning.