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vassal

[vas-uh l]
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noun
  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.
  3. a servant or slave.
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adjective
  1. of, relating to, or characteristic of a vassal.
  2. having the status or position of a vassal.
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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
Related formsvas·sal·less, adjectivenon·vas·sal, nounsub·vas·sal, nounun·der·vas·sal, noun
Can be confusedvassal vessel
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for vassal

serf, liege, slave, dependent, thrall, beneficiary, peasant, subordinate, varlet, tenant, subject, helot, liegeman, bondman, esne

Examples from the Web for vassal

Historical Examples of vassal

  • She had, indeed, given up her position as queen of the less to be vassal of the greater.

    A Pair of Blue Eyes

    Thomas Hardy

  • King Gunther receives the fair Recken into his service as a vassal.

    Legends of the Rhine

    Wilhelm Ruland

  • The second is a king who was a vassal of Tiglath-Pilezer, king of Assyria.

  • The Duke looked sharply at him, then turned his gaze on his vassal.

    Millennium

    Everett B. Cole

  • Highness—tell me, your Highness, a vassal doesn't amount to much, does he?


British Dictionary definitions for vassal

vassal

noun
  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
    1. a person, nation, etc, in a subordinate, suppliant, or dependent position relative to another
    2. (as modifier)vassal status
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adjective
  1. of or relating to a vassal
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Derived Formsvassal-less, adjective

Word Origin for vassal

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

n.

mid-15c. (c.1200 as a surname) "tenant who pledges fealty to a lord," from Old French vassal, from Medieval Latin vassallus "manservant, domestic, retainer," from vassus "servant," from Old Celtic *wasso- "young man, squire" (cf. Welsh gwas "youth, servant," Breton goaz "servant, vassal, man," Irish foss "servant"). The adjective is recorded from 1590s.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

vassal in Culture

vassal

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

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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.