vas·sal | \ˈva-səl \

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

In ancient, barbaric days when local vassals managed petite armies, brute knights often swept into villages, declaring the inhabitants subject to new laws and new lords before riding off again with the changing of the season. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, "Electric Scooters Are the Cargo Shorts of Transportation," 31 May 2018 Back in ye olden dayes, rich people collected masses of land (usually through force) and then forced vassals (that'd be us) to slog away for them and hand over money for the privilege., "I Don't Give A Single Sh*t About The Royal Wedding, With Good Reason," 18 May 2018 Jacob Rees-Mogg, who once likened a status-quo transition to being a vassal state, said Britain had rolled over without even getting its tummy tickled. The Economist, "There’s something fishy about Britain’s Brexit transition deal," 22 Mar. 2018 The tiny country on the eastern Mediterranean, once a vassal state of its far more powerful neighbor Syria, a former Soviet client, is grappling with a long list of political and economic woes. Nicholas Blanford, The Christian Science Monitor, "Russia-Lebanon deal? What the resurgent power sees in Syria's tiny neighbor.," 15 Mar. 2018 King Naresuan ascended to the throne in 1590, when Thailand (formerly known as Siam) was a vassal state of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Thailand Drops Charges Against Historian Who Questioned the Facts Around Historic 16th-Century Duel," 19 Jan. 2018 Right here in the middle of Republicanistan, one small vassal municipality can’t draw its gun without shooting itself in the foot., "Column: The world is a befuddling orb," 20 Sep. 2017 Rather than turn Qatar into a subservient vassal state, the feud with Saudi Arabia has split the Gulf in a way that looks increasingly permanent. Alan Crawford,, "Balance of Power: Merkel’s Next Term May Just Be Her Last," 13 Sep. 2017 The Qatari royal family, too, has little inclination to capitulate and transform its emirate into a Saudi vassal state. Yaroslav Trofimov, WSJ, "Qatar, Prepared for Saudi-Led Embargo, Weathers Standoff," 27 July 2017

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

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

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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 \

Kids Definition of vassal

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

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lying above or upon

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