Valet and Varlet are terms for male servants who serve as personal attendants to their employer. In the Middle Ages, the valet de chambre to a ruler was a prestigious appointment for young courtiers, though in England, unlike France, these court roles later came to be called "grooms".


In English, valet "personal man-servant" is recorded since 1567, though use of the term in the French-speaking English medieval court is much older, and the variant form varlet is cited from 1456 (OED). Both are French importations of "valet" (the t being silent) or "varlet", Old French variants of "vaslet" "man's servant," originally "squire, young man," assumed to be from Gallo-Romance *"vassellittus" "young nobleman, squire, page," diminutive of Medieval Latin "vassallus", from "vassus" "servant", possibly cognate to an Old Celtic root "wasso-" "young man, squire" (source of Welsh "gwas" "youth, servant," Breton "goaz" "servant, vassal, man," Irish "foss" "servant"). See yeoman, possibly derived from "yonge man".

The modern use is usually short for the "valet de chambre" (French for 'bedroom valet'), described in the following section. In social circles of the English-speaking world where valets are likely to be found, the word is pronounced to rhyme with "pallet". An alternative pronunciation, rhyming with "chalet", is not considered correct. The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary lists both pronunciations.

Domestic valet

A valet or gentleman's gentleman is a gentleman's male servant, the closest male equivalent to a lady's maid. The valet performs personal services such as maintaining his employer's clothes, running his bath and perhaps (especially in the past) shaving his employer. In a great house, the master of the house had his own valet, and in the very grandest great houses, other adult members of the employing family (e.g. master's sons) would also have their own valets. At a court, even minor princes and high officials may be assigned one, but in a smaller household the butler (the majordomo in charge of the household staff) might have to double as his employer's valet. In a bachelor's household the valet might perform light housekeeping duties as well. Valets, like butlers and most specialized domestic staff, have become relatively rare, and a more common — though still infrequent — arrangement is the general servant performing combined roles.

Traditionally, a valet did much more than merely lay out clothes and take care of personal items. He was also responsible for making travel arrangements, dealing with any bills and handling all money matters concerning his master or his master's household. Alexandre Bontemps, the most senior of the thirty-six valets to Louis XIV of France, was an extremely powerful figure, who ran the Chateau de Versailles. In courts, valet de chambre was a position of some status, often given to artists, musicians, poets and others, who generally spent most of their time on their specialized work. The role was also, at least during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, a common first step or training period in a nobleman's career at court.

Famous fictional valets

* Jeeves, created in 1915 by P. G. Wodehouse, starred in a series of stories until Wodehouse's death in 1975; Reginald Jeeves is considered the "personification of the perfect valet" since 1930, inspired the name of Internet search engine Ask Jeeves (from 1996 to 2006, now, and is now a generic term in dictionaries such as the Oxford English Dictionary.
* Mervyn Bunter, created in 1923 by Dorothy L. Sayers in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, likewise a paragon of discreet competence, taking his duties beyond what was expected of a valet to help his master.
* Alfred Pennyworth, butler to Bruce Wayne aka Batman, created by Bob Kane. Played by Alan Napier in the 1966 "Batman" film starring Adam West, Michael Gough in Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, and most recently by Michael Caine in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
* Brothers Giles and Nigel French, played by Sebastian Cabot and John Williams, respectively, in the TV series "Family Affair" (later functioned as the family butler).
* Hobson (Sir John Gielgud), from the comedy film "Arthur" (1981).
* Kato, valet and sidekick to Britt Reid a.k.a. The Green Hornet.
* Kato, Inspector Clouseau's valet and martial arts partner in the "Pink Panther" movies.
* Rochester Van Jones, played on radio and television by Eddie Anderson on the "Jack Benny Show".
* Passepartout, in the 1872 novel "Around the World in Eighty Days" by Jules Verne.
* Georges, created by Agatha Christie in the Hercule Poirot novels.
* Edward Henry Masterman, the victim's valet and a suspect in Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express".
* Figaro, the Count of Almaviva's valet from Beaumarchais' play "The Marriage of Figaro", as well as the Mozart and Rossini operas based on it.
* Leporello, valet of Don Giovanni in the opera by Mozart.
* Spicer Lovejoy (David Warner), valet and bodyguard to Caledon Hockley in the film "Titanic" (1997).
* La Fleche, Cleante's valet in "the Miser".
* Saturnin, valet in the novel and movie "Saturnin" written by Zdeněk Jirotka.
* Mr. Probert (Derek Jacobi), valet to Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon), and Robert Parks (Clive Owen), valet to Lord Stockbridge (Charles Dance), in the 2001 film "Gosford Park", directed by Robert Altman.
* Fonzworth Bentley, the alterego of Derek Watkins, a valet to Sean "Diddy" Combs.
* Mr. Belvedere, movie and television show starring Christopher Hewitt and Bob Ueker.
* Baptistin, in "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas.
* Pork, Gerald O'Hara's valet in Gone With the Wind.
* The Valet, an unnamed Valet in the play No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre.

Other valets

Valet is also used for people performing specific services:
* hotel valet — an employee who performs personal services for guests.
* parking valet – a service employee who parks cars for guests, only from 1960.
* car valet — an employee who is paid to clean people's cars professionally.
* valet — a professional wrestling term for a person who accompanies a wrestler to the ring - originally a beefy man but now usually a busty woman.

Other forms of valet-like personnel include:
* Batman
* Bedder
* Dresser


In playing cards, "Valet" is another name for a JackFact|date=August 2008.

Clothes valet

Clothes valets are also referred to as a men's valet. A majority are free standing and made out of wood.


While in French this word remained restricted to the feudal use for a (knight's) squire, in modern English it came to be used for the various other male servants originally called va(r)let other than the gentleman's gentleman, when in livery usually called lackey, such as the "valet de pied" ('foot varlet', compare footman). In archaic English, "varlet" also could mean an unprincipled person; a rogue.


* [ EtymologyOnLine]
* "Nouveau Petit Larousse Illustré" (in French, 1952)

ee also

* Valet boy
* Personal assistant

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • VALET — ou VARLE Mot de la langue courante, de même origine (latin, vassaletus ) que le mot savant «vassal», employé pour qualifier l’homme entré librement en dépendance pour obtenir d’un plus puissant sa protection et un bienfait. Fut au Moyen Âge… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • valet — 1. (va lè ; le t ne se lie pas ; au pluriel, l s se lie : des va lè z adroits ; valets rime avec traits, succès, paix, etc.{{}}; dans quelques provinces on dit vâ lè{{}}; bien que fondée en raison, puisque l orthographe primitive est vaslet,… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • valet — VALET. s. m. Domestique qui sert dans les bas emplois. Bon valet. méchant valet. valet à tout faire. il recompense mal ses valets. il se laisse gouverner, gourmander par ses valets. estre à la mercy de ses valets. valets de livrée. valet de… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • valet — VALÉT, valeţi, s.m. 1. Servitor la casele boiereşti (aflat în serviciul personal al stăpânului); fecior, lacheu. 2. Fiecare dintre cele patru cărţi de joc, reprezentând figura unui cavaler; fante. – Din fr. valet. Trimis de bogdanrsb, 11.08.2002 …   Dicționar Român

  • Valet — hat folgende Bedeutungen: ein veralteter Abschiedsgruß, von lat. vale (leb wohl) im angelsächsischen Sprachraum: kostenlose Dienstleistung (z. B. valet coffee = kostenloser Kaffee in Hotels oder Restaurants) speziell eine besondere Form des… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • valet — personal man servant, mid 14c., from O.Fr. valet, variant of vaslet man s servant, originally squire, young man, from Gallo Romance *vassellittus young nobleman, squire, page, dim. of M.L. vassallus, from vassus servant (see VASSAL (Cf. vassal)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Valet — Val et (?; 277), n. [F. valet, OF. vallet, varlet, vaslet. See {Varlet}, and {Vassal}.] [1913 Webster] 1. A male waiting servant; a servant who attends on gentleman s person; a body servant. [1913 Webster] 2. (Man.) A kind of goad or stick with a …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • valet — (izg. valȇ) m <G valèa, D L valèu> DEFINICIJA rij. sluga, lakaj; hotelski poslužitelj SINTAGMA valet de chambre (izg. valet d šámbr) sobar ETIMOLOGIJA fr. ← lat. vasselitus, vassus: sluga ← kelt …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • Valet — sagen: Abschied nehmen. Die Wendung entstand aus dem ursprünglich ›valete!‹ = lebet wohl!{{ppd}}    Als Ursprung von ›valet sagen‹ (lateinisch vale dicere) sind Ovids ›Metamorphosen‹ (10, 62) angesehen worden: »supremum vale dicere«. Hans Sachs… …   Das Wörterbuch der Idiome

  • valet — ☛ V. percha valet …   Diccionario de la lengua española

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