in Spanish America, "unskilled worker," formerly in Mexico especially "a type of serf held in servitude by his creditor until his debts are worked off," 1826, from Mexican Spanish peon "agricultural laborer" (especially a debtor held in servitude by his creditor), from Spanish peon "day laborer," also "pedestrian," originally "foot soldier," from Medieval Latin pedonem "foot soldier" (see pawn (n.2)). The word entered British English earlier (c. 1600) in the sense "native constable, soldier, or messenger in India," via Portuguese peao "pedestrian, foot soldier, day laborer."
word-forming element in nouns of act, process, function, condition, from Old French and French -age, from Late Latin -aticum "belonging to, related to," originally neuter adjectival suffix, from PIE *-at- (source of Latin -atus, past participle suffix of verbs of the first conjugation) + *-(i)ko-, secondary suffix forming adjectives (see -ic).
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Definitions of peonage
the condition of a peon;
the practice of making a debtor work for his creditor until the debt is discharged;