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[ves-uh l] /ˈvɛs əl/
a craft for traveling on water, now usually one larger than an ordinary rowboat; a ship or boat.
an airship.
a hollow or concave utensil, as a cup, bowl, pitcher, or vase, used for holding liquids or other contents.
Anatomy, Zoology. a tube or duct, as an artery or vein, containing or conveying blood or some other body fluid.
Botany. a duct formed in the xylem, composed of connected cells that have lost their intervening partitions, that conducts water and mineral nutrients.
Compare tracheid.
a person regarded as a holder or receiver of something, especially something nonmaterial:
a vessel of grace; a vessel of wrath.
Origin of vessel
1250-1300; Middle English < Anglo-French, Old French vessel, va(i)ssel < Latin vāscellum, equivalent to vās (see vase) + -cellum diminutive suffix
Related forms
vesseled; especially British, vesselled, adjective
unvesseled, adjective
Can be confused
vassal, vessel. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for vessel
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • If he had been picked up by any vessel I suppose he would have written.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • He was already a mile distant from the vessel when Captain Haley came on deck.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • Bates touched his hat, for he judged this was the captain of the vessel he had seen.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • Made at once for the vessel, and, on reaching her, found all well and glad to see us.

  • The vessel might hold together till morning, but who could tell?

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
British Dictionary definitions for vessel


any object used as a container, esp for a liquid
a passenger or freight-carrying ship, boat, etc
an aircraft, esp an airship
(anatomy) a tubular structure that transports such body fluids as blood and lymph
(botany) a tubular element of xylem tissue consisting of a row of cells in which the connecting cell walls have broken down
(rare) a person regarded as an agent or vehicle for some purpose or quality: she was the vessel of the Lord
Word Origin
C13: from Old French vaissel, from Late Latin vascellum urn, from Latin vās vessel
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for vessel

c.1300, "container," from Old French vessel (French vaisseau) from Latin vascellum "small vase or urn," also "a ship," diminutive of vasculum, itself a diminutive of vas "vessel." Sense of "ship, boat" is found in English c.1300. "The association between hollow utensils and boats appears in all languages" [Weekley]. Meaning "canal or duct of the body" (especially for carrying blood) is attested from late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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vessel in Medicine

vessel ves·sel (věs'əl)
A duct, canal, or other tube that contains or conveys a body fluid such as blood or lymph.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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vessel in Science
  1. A blood vessel.

  2. A long, continuous column made of the lignified walls of dead vessel elements, along which water flows in the xylem of angiosperms.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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