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

Chak Took Ich’aak appears 20 years later as a vassal of the Kaanul dynasty and the ruler of the larger, nearby city of Peru-Waka. James Rogers, Fox News, "'Game of thrones' altar discovered at ancient Maya temple, reveals its secrets," 20 Sep. 2018 Another salient difference is that the United States is, rather than a fascist vassal, an advanced democracy. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "In defense of the New York Times’s anonymous Trump official," 6 Sep. 2018 Four minutes long, the founding text of Gaullism was initially vetoed by the British Cabinet, which hoped to forestall an armistice between the Nazi victors in Paris and the vassal ministry headed by Marshal Pétain. Richard Norton Smith, WSJ, "‘De Gaulle’ Review: ‘A Certain Idea of France’," 26 July 2018 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

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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Statistics for vassal

Last Updated

15 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for vassal

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

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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 \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on vassal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with vassal

Spanish Central: Translation of vassal

Nglish: Translation of vassal for Spanish Speakers

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

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