[ 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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use vassal in a sentence

  • Rivals can become vassals who do your bidding in exchange for your championing their wee causes.

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

    The History of Kissing | Sheril Kirshenbaum | February 13, 2011 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • Hemingburgh makes Bruce speak to his father's vassals before the Irvine episode as a Scotsman, at any rate by descent.

    King Robert the Bruce | A. F. Murison
  • He was needed to set right his barony, for he himself grew weak and his vassals quarrelsome.

    God Wills It! | William Stearns Davis
  • And Herbert began to call to arms the vassals of the barony, and chuckled when he thought of the brave times ahead.

    God Wills It! | William Stearns Davis

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.