\ ˈfēf How to pronounce fief (audio) \

Definition of fief

1 : a feudal estate : fee
2 : something over which one has rights or exercises control a politician's fief

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Did You Know?

In European feudalism, a fief was a source of income granted to a person (called a vassal) by his lord in exchange for his services. The fief usually consisted of land and the labor of peasants who were bound to cultivate it. The income it provided supported the vassal, who was obliged to fight for his lord as a knight.

Examples of fief in a Sentence

the logistics of the relief effort is the director's fief
Recent Examples on the Web But for nearly a half-century, the building and society have been the fief of an eminent physician named Dr. Kevin M. Cahill, his family and his friends. Dan Barry, New York Times, "On a Storied Stretch of Fifth Avenue, a Symbol of Irish America Reels," 13 Mar. 2021 Lulled by glamour and success, Real Madrid has allowed itself to be transformed into the personal fief of its president, Florentino Pérez. New York Times, "Real Madrid vs. Barcelona: Too Big to Fall," 9 Apr. 2021 Their claim is based on possession of a fief—a right granted by a feudal overlord in exchange for allegiance or services. The Economist, "In Circe’s lair A row over land takes Italy back to the Middle Ages," 27 Mar. 2021 To tech’s critics, these definitional regularities point to something insidious, encapsulating in a word the dominance that each firm wields over its digital fief—some of it possibly ill-gotten. The Economist, "Collusion and collisions The new rules of competition in the technology industry," 27 Feb. 2021 Mawlawi Ansari, 36, a burly, bearded cleric, has carved out his own fief in a conservative district of Herat, a western Afghanistan city renowned for art and culture. David Zucchino, New York Times, "A Radical Cleric Ignites an Islamist Resistance in Afghanistan," 22 Oct. 2020 The Houthis, who control the north, claim the situation is far better in their fief. The Economist, "The invisible outbreak Covid-19 quietly sweeps across Yemen," 4 June 2020 At the moment, housing policy is primarily dictated by local jurisdictions that act like fiefs. New York Times, "Where America’s Fight for Housing Is an All-Out War," 14 Feb. 2020 The goal of the recent moves is to reduce the number of corporate fiefs and make the organization more efficient, said a senior Disney executive familiar with the company’s strategy. Joe Flint, WSJ, "Disney Strategy for Fox Assets Comes Into Focus as Executives Quit," 3 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fief.' 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 fief

circa 1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for fief

French, from Old French — more at fee

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Last Updated

11 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Fief.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for fief



English Language Learners Definition of fief

: a large area of land that was ruled over by a lord in medieval times : a feudal estate


\ ˈfēf How to pronounce fief (audio) \

Kids Definition of fief

: an estate of land given to a vassal by a feudal lord

More from Merriam-Webster on fief

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for fief Encyclopedia article about fief

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