COTTER, Cottar, or Cottier, a word derived from the Latin cota, a cot or cottage, and used to describe a man who occupies a cottage and cultivates a small plot of land. This word is often employed to translate the cotarius of Domesday Book, a class whose exact status has been the subject of some discussion, and is still a matter of doubt. According to Domesday the cotarii were comparatively few, numbering less than seven thousand, and were scattered unevenly throughout England, being principally in the southern counties; they were occupied either in cultivating a small plot of land, or in working on the holdings of the villani. Like the villani, among whom they were frequently classed, their economic condition may be described as “free in relation to every one except their lord.”
See F. W. Maitland, Domesday Book and Beyond (Cambridge, 1897); and P. Vinogradoff, Villainage in England (Oxford, 1892).