feu·​dal·​ism ˈfyü-də-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce feudalism (audio)
: the system of political organization prevailing in Europe from the 9th to about the 15th centuries having as its basis the relation of lord to vassal (see vassal sense 1) with all land held in fee (see fee sense 1) and as chief characteristics homage, the service of tenants under arms and in court, wardship (see wardship sense 1), and forfeiture (see forfeiture sense 1)
: any of various political or social systems similar to medieval feudalism
feudalist noun
feudalistic adjective

Examples of feudalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Milanovic makes the compelling argument that communism brought much of the developing world out of feudalism and into the modern world without developing an industrial middle class, as capitalism did in Europe and North America. Branko Milanovic, Foreign Affairs, 11 Aug. 2020 Format #1 is very much like feudalism, and #2 is, of course, chaos. WIRED, 6 July 2023 The abolition of slavery in the United States and feudalism in Japan were profound social and economic transformations. Harold James, Foreign Affairs, 20 Apr. 2021 Officials turned to unfavorable land relocation and quit-rent, a holdover from feudalism that was essentially a land tax, in hopes of course-correcting. Francine Uenuma, Smithsonian Magazine, 14 June 2023 Harry and Meghan were never looking for private lives but, rather, for privatized ones—which sounds crass, unless one considers that the alternative was feudalism. Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker, 18 Jan. 2023 Cosmopolitan feudalism? Anthony Lydgate, WIRED, 6 Sep. 2022 Under feudalism, tenants were obligated to work the land of their lords, and lords were obligated to provide for the basic needs of their tenants. Eula Biss, The New Yorker, 8 June 2022 Federici proposes a new theory about the transition from feudalism to capitalism in Europe, marshaling historical evidence to argue that this also was the moment when women’s work was brought under the control of male heads of household and confined to the domestic sphere. New York Times, 17 Feb. 2021 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1773, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of feudalism was in 1773

Dictionary Entries Near feudalism

Cite this Entry

“Feudalism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feudalism. Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


feu·​dal·​ism ˈfyüd-ᵊl-ˌiz-əm How to pronounce feudalism (audio)
: a system of political organization (as in Europe during the Middle Ages) in which a vassal served a lord and received protection and land in return
feudalistic adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on feudalism

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