fealty

noun

fe·​al·​ty ˈfē(-ə)l-tē How to pronounce fealty (audio)
plural fealties
1
a
: the fidelity of a vassal or feudal tenant to his lord
b
: the obligation of such fidelity
The vassal vowed fealty to the king.
2
: intense fidelity
the fealty of country music fans to their favorite starsNicholas Dawidoff

Did you know?

In The Use of Law, published posthumously in 1629, Francis Bacon wrote, "Fealty is to take an oath upon a book, that he will be a faithful Tenant to the King." That's a pretty accurate summary of the early meaning of fealty. Early forms of the term were used in Middle English around 1300, when they specifically designated the loyalty of a vassal to a lord. Eventually, the meaning of the word broadened. Fealty can be paid to a country, a principle, or a leader of any kind—though the synonyms fidelity and loyalty are more commonly used. Fealty comes from the Anglo-French word feelté, or fealté, which comes from the Latin fidelitas, meaning "fidelity." These words are ultimately derived from fides, the Latin word for "faith."

Choose the Right Synonym for fealty

fidelity, allegiance, fealty, loyalty, devotion, piety mean faithfulness to something to which one is bound by pledge or duty.

fidelity implies strict and continuing faithfulness to an obligation, trust, or duty.

marital fidelity

allegiance suggests an adherence like that of citizens to their country.

pledging allegiance

fealty implies a fidelity acknowledged by the individual and as compelling as a sworn vow.

fealty to the truth

loyalty implies a faithfulness that is steadfast in the face of any temptation to renounce, desert, or betray.

valued the loyalty of his friends

devotion stresses zeal and service amounting to self-dedication.

a painter's devotion to her art

piety stresses fidelity to obligations regarded as natural and fundamental.

filial piety

Examples of fealty in a Sentence

He swore fealty to the king. as much as I wanted to back my friend up, my fealty to the truth was greater, and I could not lie for him
Recent Examples on the Web Our task ahead is to envision an inspiring future, not stall progress in fealty to the status quo. Elijah Clark, Forbes, 23 Feb. 2024 Elections that demand public declarations of fealty at specific dates and times—without options for mail-in or early voting—undercut democratic norms and, especially in Nevada, penalize hourly-wage workers who tend to be less affluent or white. TIME, 6 Feb. 2024 His new wife, who demonstrates an unshakeable fealty to her man, like castrated Republicans to Donald Trump, is Bianca Censori, an Australian. Joe Soucheray, Twin Cities, 3 Feb. 2024 While his early novels paid fealty to the expansive, twisty prose of Faulkner and the unsettling Southern gothic of O’Connor, his poetry and later novels moved toward the elegiac sentiments and literary precision of Welty. Clay Risen, New York Times, 25 Jan. 2024 At the same time, Beijing is dangling carrots to others that show some fealty to China. Joseph Menn, Washington Post, 11 Jan. 2024 Anglophone readers of Coetzee, arriving late to the concert of Beatriz and Witold, know well that frustration and fealty are perfectly compatible. Jennifer Wilson, The New Yorker, 25 Sep. 2023 But when a stopgap spending bill expires in mid-November, fealty to Mr. Trump will have real consequences. Jonathan Weisman, New York Times, 6 Oct. 2023 And because everyone goes to Greggs, expressing fealty is a way of coding a lack of pretension. Rory Smith, New York Times, 30 Dec. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fealty.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English feute, fealtye, borrowed from Anglo-French feelté, fealté, going back to Latin fidēlitāt-, fidēlitās "faithfulness, loyalty" — more at fidelity

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of fealty was in the 14th century

Podcast

Dictionary Entries Near fealty

Cite this Entry

“Fealty.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fealty. Accessed 5 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

fealty

noun
fe·​al·​ty ˈfē(-ə)l-tē How to pronounce fealty (audio)
plural fealties

More from Merriam-Webster on fealty

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!