This is something I've been wondering a while and it may be owed to the fact that on occasion when you see a movie or documentary with subtitles turned on, the spoken word that I would recognize as "pawn" is being spelled "peon" in the subtitles.
Now do a search for pawn peon on this site. Turns out that even on this site someone was using the two words seemingly in an interchangeable fashion.
Wiktionary gives two explanations for the meaning of pawn (quote):
- (chess) The most common chess piece, or a similar piece in a similar game. In chess each side has eight; moves are only forward, and attacks are only forward diagonally or en passant.
(colloquial) Someone who is being manipulated or used to some end, usually not the end that individual would prefer.
Though a pawn of the gods, her departure is the precipitating cause of the Trojan War.
There is no mention of peon on that page, yet the three explanations for the meaning of peon given on its page - also in the sense pawn is used in chess - are relatively close. But whereas pawn is traced back to French, peon is traced back to Spanish according to those web pages. Both being Romance languages, this does of course not rule out a common origin.
So what I am wondering is: is it mere misunderstanding and/or error when someone spells the spoken word "pawn" as "peon" or are the words sharing the same origin and original meaning?