[soo-zuh-rin, -reyn]


a sovereign or a state exercising political control over a dependent state.
History/Historical. a feudal overlord.


characteristic of or being a suzerain.

Origin of suzerain

1800–10; < French, equivalent to sus above (< Latin sūsum, variant of sursum, contraction of subversum, neuter of subversus upturned; see sub-, verse) + (souv)erain sovereign Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for suzerain

Historical Examples of suzerain

  • The sons of vassals were sent to the castle of the suzerain to be brought up with his sons.

    English Villages

    P. H. Ditchfield

  • And the suzerain revenues shall all be yours; for by the bones of Othman!

  • Natives were, no doubt, expected to know by intuition what suzerain rights are.

    The Last Boer War

    H. Rider Haggard

  • He feared for his life, he said, and would not trust himself in his suzerain's hands.

  • Finally, if a truce is made the suzerain is bound to punish the violators.

    Life on a Mediaeval Barony

    William Stearns Davis

British Dictionary definitions for suzerain



  1. a state or sovereign exercising some degree of dominion over a dependent state, usually controlling its foreign affairs
  2. (as modifier)a suzerain power
  1. a feudal overlord
  2. (as modifier)suzerain lord

Word Origin for suzerain

C19: from French, from sus above (from Latin sursum turned upwards, from sub- up + vertere to turn) + -erain, as in souverain sovereign
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

Word Origin and History for suzerain

"sovereign, ruler," late 15c. (implied in suzerainty), from Old French sus "up, above" (from Vulgar Latin susum, from Latin sursum "upward, above," contraction of subversum, from sub "up from below") + vertere "a turning" (see versus). With ending from sovereign.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper