[vas-uh l]


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


of, relating to, or characteristic of a vassal.
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
Related formsvas·sal·less, adjectivenon·vas·sal, nounsub·vas·sal, nounun·der·vas·sal, noun
Can be confusedvassal vessel Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for vassals

Contemporary Examples of vassals

  • The kiss also served as a sign of trust between feudal lords and vassals.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The History of Kissing

    Sheril Kirshenbaum

    February 13, 2011

Historical Examples of vassals

  • When he ceased, all the vassals showed their approval of this speech.

    Welsh Fairy Tales

    William Elliott Griffis

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

    English Villages

    P. H. Ditchfield

  • We are the tools or vassals of the rich men behind the scenes.

  • With two sons, however, who are about to enter the Guards, I am afraid we must be your vassals.

    Vivian Grey

    Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli

  • Ma foi, you and yours do not deserve to be treated as anything but vassals.

British Dictionary definitions for vassals



(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


of or relating to a vassal
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 vassals



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

vassals in Culture


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.