[ves-uh l]
See more synonyms for vessel on
  1. a craft for traveling on water, now usually one larger than an ordinary rowboat; a ship or boat.
  2. an airship.
  3. a hollow or concave utensil, as a cup, bowl, pitcher, or vase, used for holding liquids or other contents.
  4. Anatomy, Zoology. a tube or duct, as an artery or vein, containing or conveying blood or some other body fluid.
  5. Botany. a duct formed in the xylem, composed of connected cells that have lost their intervening partitions, that conducts water and mineral nutrients.Compare tracheid.
  6. a person regarded as a holder or receiver of something, especially something nonmaterial: a vessel of grace; a vessel of wrath.

Origin of vessel

1250–1300; Middle English < Anglo-French, Old French vessel, va(i)ssel < Latin vāscellum, equivalent to vās (see vase) + -cellum diminutive suffix
Related formsves·seled; especially British, ves·selled, adjectiveun·ves·seled, adjective
Can be confusedvassal vessel Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for vessel

Contemporary Examples of vessel

Historical Examples of vessel

  • If he had been picked up by any vessel I suppose he would have written.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • He was already a mile distant from the vessel when Captain Haley came on deck.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Bates touched his hat, for he judged this was the captain of the vessel he had seen.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Made at once for the vessel, and, on reaching her, found all well and glad to see us.

  • The vessel might hold together till morning, but who could tell?


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

British Dictionary definitions for vessel


  1. any object used as a container, esp for a liquid
  2. a passenger or freight-carrying ship, boat, etc
  3. an aircraft, esp an airship
  4. anatomy a tubular structure that transports such body fluids as blood and lymph
  5. botany a tubular element of xylem tissue consisting of a row of cells in which the connecting cell walls have broken down
  6. rare a person regarded as an agent or vehicle for some purpose or qualityshe was the vessel of the Lord

Word Origin for vessel

C13: from Old French vaissel, from Late Latin vascellum urn, from Latin vās vessel
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 vessel

c.1300, "container," from Old French vessel (French vaisseau) from Latin vascellum "small vase or urn," also "a ship," diminutive of vasculum, itself a diminutive of vas "vessel." Sense of "ship, boat" is found in English c.1300. "The association between hollow utensils and boats appears in all languages" [Weekley]. Meaning "canal or duct of the body" (especially for carrying blood) is attested from late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

vessel in Medicine


  1. A duct, canal, or other tube that contains or conveys a body fluid such as blood or lymph.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

vessel in Science


  1. A blood vessel.
  2. A long, continuous column made of the lignified walls of dead vessel elements, along which water flows in the xylem of angiosperms.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.