Definition of vassal
1 : a person under the protection of a feudal lord to whom he has vowed homage and fealty : a feudal tenant
2 : one in a subservient or subordinate position
Recent Examples of vassal from the Web
The first was alipin namamahay, the slave who had his or her own house and family and, like a vassal, was expected to help the master during harvests, raids, trade, and feasts.
Throughout the 1950s, the Kremlin shared its new rifles with like-minded states and ordered its Warsaw Pact vassals to produce them.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vassal'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Origin and Etymology of vassal
Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Medieval Latin vassallus “serf of the manor house, household servant, lord's man who has received a fief,“ borrowed from Gaulish *wassall-, derivative of *wass- “servant” (whence Medieval Latin vassus “serf, servant, holder of a fief”), going back to Celtic *wosto-, whence Welsh gwas “boy, servant,” Middle Breton goas, Old Irish foss “servant, attendant” ◆Celtic *wasto- is generally taken to continue Indo-European *upo-sth2-o- “one who stands under,” which may be correct if Gaulish *wass- shares with British Celtic unrounding of o in this position.
First Known Use: 14th century
VASSAL Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of vassal for English Language Learners
: a person in the past who received protection and land from a lord in return for loyalty and service
VASSAL Defined for Kids
Definition of vassal for Students
: a person in the Middle Ages who received protection and land from a lord in return for loyalty and service
Seen and Heard
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