vas·​sal | \ ˈva-səl How to pronounce vassal (audio) \

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

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Other Words from vassal

vassal adjective

Examples of vassal in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The House Republican Party has become a vassal for his extremism, including with its absurd, whitewashing claim that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, rather than Trump, was responsible for the worst attack on the US Capitol in 200 years. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 2 Aug. 2021 But Ellwood is inclined to think that Moscow is planning a rerun of Putin’s previous efforts to carve political satellites out of former Soviet vassal states — such as the Crimea crisis and the 2008 intervention in Georgia. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, 21 Apr. 2021 Brexit was the culmination of the growing realization that Britain was becoming a vassal state to the ever-expanding and intrusive, both geographically and politically, European Union superstate. New York Times, 2 Apr. 2021 Putin resents the fact that NATO expanded to allow former Soviet vassal states into the transatlantic alliance, but the Central and Eastern European nations regard the security pact as a bulwark against a potential Russian invasion. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, 18 Mar. 2021 Saudi Arabia’s founder, Ibn Saud, came to power through conquest and alliances rather than being selected by European powers to rule a vassal state in their name. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, 5 Mar. 2021 Officials in former Soviet vassal states fear the project will give Moscow leverage over Berlin while empowering Putin to cut gas supplies to Ukraine without affecting other Western European powers. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, 22 Feb. 2021 Once a Chinese tributary, the kingdom became a vassal state of Japan in 1609. Amelia Lester, The New York Review of Books, 1 Dec. 2020 Zheng He, the supposedly peaceful admiral, launched a military expedition on the island of Sumatra (now part of Indonesia) against a rival to the local king and Chinese vassal. Michael Schuman, The Atlantic, 5 Oct. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of vassal

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for 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"

Note: 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.

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Time Traveler for vassal

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The first known use of vassal was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

11 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Vassal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for vassal



English Language Learners Definition of vassal

: a person in the past who received protection and land from a lord in return for loyalty and service


vas·​sal | \ ˈva-səl How to pronounce vassal (audio) \

Kids Definition of vassal

: a person in the Middle Ages who received protection and land from a lord in return for loyalty and service

More from Merriam-Webster on vassal

Nglish: Translation of vassal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vassal for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about vassal


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