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 principality to which the town belonged would spend the next 250 years as a vassal state to the Golden Horde but not without more conflict and death. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Archaeologists unearth mass graves from Mongol invasion of Russia," 11 Sep. 2019 So, that's part of it-- MICHAEL MORELL: With every other country being its vassal? CBS News, "Transcript: Jim Sciutto talks with Michael Morell on "Intelligence Matters"," 21 Aug. 2019 Georgia lost control of two separatist territories in the conflict; the regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, are now effectively Russian vassal states. Washington Post, "Georgia: Protests held by parliament for 4th straight day," 23 June 2019 The Chinese felt that the first foreign trip from North Korea should be to China. Because the Chinese look at the North Koreans as vassals. Fox News, "Graham hails Trump's stance on North Korea, trade and Russia," 28 Mar. 2018 Tikal’s king was killed and replaced by an outsider, and the kingdom became something like a vassal state to the foreign state. Nathaniel Scharping, Discover Magazine, "The Lost World of the Maya is Finally Emerging From the Jungle," 7 Feb. 2019 The kings of the 16th dynasty survived as vassals of the Hyksos, but the 17th dynasty began to fight back with the help of three women, all queens of Thebes: Tetisheri, daughter Ahhotep, and granddaughter Ahmose Nefertari. National Geographic, "How three rebel queens of Egypt overthrew an empire and gave birth to a new kingdom," 7 Mar. 2019 Beijing isn’t creating vassal states through predatory lending. Nathaniel Taplin, WSJ, "One Belt, One Road, and a Lot of Debt," 2 May 2019 The way to deal with China, and thus North Korea, its naughty but wholly dependent vassal, is not by a failing and provocative attempt to weaken it, but by attending to America’s diminishing strengths. Mark Helprin, WSJ, "The U.S. Is Ceding the Pacific to China," 3 Mar. 2019

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

22 Sep 2019

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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 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

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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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