[ vas-uhl ]
See synonyms for vassal on
  1. (in the feudal system) a person granted the use of land, in return for rendering homage, fealty, and usually military service or its equivalent to a lord or other superior; feudal tenant.

  2. a person holding some similar relation to a superior; a subject, subordinate, follower, or retainer.

  1. a servant or slave.

  1. of, relating to, or characteristic of a vassal.

  2. having the status or position of a vassal.

Origin of vassal

1300–50; Middle English <Middle French <Medieval Latin vassallus, equivalent to vass(us) servant (<Celtic; compare Welsh gwas young man, Irish foss servant) + -allus noun suffix

Other words from vassal

  • vas·sal·less, adjective
  • non·vas·sal, noun
  • sub·vas·sal, noun
  • un·der·vas·sal, noun

Words that may be confused with vassal

Words Nearby vassal Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use vassal in a sentence

  • After all he was a Moslem, and a Turkish vassal, and a consistent contemner of Russians, so wherefore should he stand aside?

    The Cradle of Mankind | W.A. Wigram
  • Each of these vassal states was made to pay handsomely for its new acquisitions.

    The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte | William Milligan Sloane
  • I loved you from the first—not like a vassal either—and will always love you.

    The Ghost Breaker | Charles Goddard

British Dictionary definitions for vassal


/ (ˈvæsəl) /

  1. (in feudal society) a man who entered into a personal relationship with a lord to whom he paid homage and fealty in return for protection and often a fief. A great vassal was in vassalage to a king and a rear vassal to a great vassal

    • a person, nation, etc, in a subordinate, suppliant, or dependent position relative to another

    • (as modifier): vassal status

  1. of or relating to a vassal

Origin of vassal

C14: via Old French from Medieval Latin vassallus, from vassus servant, of Celtic origin; compare Welsh gwas boy, Old Irish foss servant

Derived forms of vassal

  • vassal-less, adjective

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

Cultural definitions for vassal


Under feudalism, a subordinate who placed himself in service to a lord in return for the lord's protection.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.