feu·​dal·​ism | \ ˈfyü-də-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce feudalism (audio) \

Definition of feudalism

1 : 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)
2 : any of various political or social systems similar to medieval feudalism

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Other Words from feudalism

feudalist \ ˈfyü-​də-​list How to pronounce feudalism (audio) \ noun
feudalistic \ ˌfyü-​də-​ˈli-​stik How to pronounce feudalism (audio) \ adjective

Examples of feudalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Throughout many of his articles, Kotkin has laid out policy ideas that might ward off feudalism. John Loftus, National Review, "How the GOP Can Win Over Millennials," 18 Oct. 2020 The early stages of the revolution famously abolished the last vestiges of feudalism in France. National Geographic, "The French Revolution not only toppled a king—it also forged the metric system," 10 Sep. 2020 Catherine’s failure to abolish feudalism is often cited as justification for characterizing her as a hypocritical, albeit enlightened, despot. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Story of Catherine the Great," 15 May 2020 But though the attempt to overthrow the aristocracy had been put down, the old feudalism could not be resuscitated—at least not in England. Kevin Baker, Harper's Magazine, "Things to Come," 23 June 2020 Greig and Walter, stalwart veterans of British stage and screen, lead a compelling ensemble in a story that hinges on the rattling collision of dying feudalism against rising industrialization. Robyn Bahr, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Belgravia': TV Review," 10 Apr. 2020 Barber posited that classical liberalism’s single-minded emphasis on maximizing individual freedom was an extreme reaction to the oppressive restrictions on individual liberty under feudalism, a system the Swiss never directly experienced. Win Mccormack, The New Republic, "Civic Republicanism: Good for the Jews," 19 Mar. 2020 Brand Sussex represents the biggest threat to the monarchy so far MARX PREDICTED that capitalism would destroy every remnant of feudalism. The Economist, "Bagehot Harry, Meghan and Marx," 14 Jan. 2020 Family farmers say concentrating farmland among a few big companies is akin to feudalism, and un-American. Alana Semuels / Fremont, Time, "'They're Trying to Wipe Us Off the Map.' Small American Farmers Are Nearing Extinction," 27 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'feudalism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of feudalism

1773, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for feudalism

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The first known use of feudalism was in 1773

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Cite this Entry

“Feudalism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feudalism. Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of feudalism

: a social system that existed in Europe during the Middle Ages in which people worked and fought for nobles who gave them protection and the use of land in return


feu·​dal·​ism | \ ˈfyü-də-ˌliz-əm How to pronounce feudalism (audio) \

Kids Definition of feudalism

: a social system existing in medieval Europe in which people worked and fought for nobles who gave them protection and land in return

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More from Merriam-Webster on feudalism

Nglish: Translation of feudalism for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of feudalism for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about feudalism

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