• synonyms


[vas-uh l]
  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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  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 vassals

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

Examples from the Web for vassals

Contemporary Examples of vassals

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


  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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  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 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.

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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.

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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.