[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. 2018

Examples from the Web for vessels

Contemporary Examples of vessels

Historical Examples of vessels

  • He may perhaps be on the eve of starting away by some of the vessels in the port.

    Life in London

    Edwin Hodder

  • As to the stone, it glanced off obliquely and fell midway between the vessels.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • From the shields, there is not one of these vessels which hath not knight or baron aboard.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • There are ten vessels to-day passing in and out to one in 1880.

  • Meantime the weather had cleared, and all the vessels but one had gone from the inlet.

British Dictionary definitions for vessels


  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 vessels



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

vessels 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.

vessels 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.