ves·​sel | \ ˈve-səl How to pronounce vessel (audio) \

Definition of vessel

1a : a container (such as a cask, bottle, kettle, cup, or bowl) for holding something
b : a person into whom some quality (such as grace) is infused a child of light, a true vessel of the Lord— H. J. Laski
2 : a watercraft bigger than a rowboat especially : ship sense 1
3a : a tube or canal (such as an artery) in which a body fluid is contained and conveyed or circulated
b : a conducting tube in the xylem of a vascular plant formed by the fusion and loss of end walls of a series of cells

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for vessel


boat, keel, ship

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of vessel in a Sentence

a new ocean liner that claims to be the largest commercial vessel afloat any vessel that is buoyant and steerable can be entered in the annual race down the river

Recent Examples on the Web

The bodies of 33 of the 34 people presumed dead after a dive vessel caught fire off the coast of California on Monday have been recovered, officials said Wednesday. Fox News, "California boat company cancels upcoming diving trips as 33 of 34 bodies pulled from water," 4 Sep. 2019 According to federal prosecutors, the men were apprehended in December 2017 after the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton was sent to investigate a suspicious vessel spotted about 100 nautical miles north of Ecuador. San Diego Union-Tribune, "South American trio sentenced in San Diego to prison for cocaine trafficking," 23 Aug. 2019 The product was a customizable doll—no brain, just a vessel. Emma Grey Ellis, WIRED, "You Are Already Having Sex With Robots," 23 Aug. 2019 One of those dreamers, Victor Jackson, 81, of Okemos, will spend Saturday celebrating his 1969 feat of sailing a makeshift bathtub vessel from Ludington, Michigan, to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan man ready to celebrate sailing across a Great Lake in a bathtub 50 years ago," 23 Aug. 2019 None of the local boat owners would charter them a vessel for such a ridiculous-sounding project, but along came the Western Flyer, sailing into Monterey Bay with captain Tony Berry at the helm. Smithsonian, "John Steinbeck’s Epic Ocean Voyage Rewrote the Rules of Ecology," 22 Aug. 2019 By late Sunday, the agency was headed toward an area about 50 miles east of Jacksonville, Florida, after a civilian aircraft reported seeing a vessel matching the description of the missing boat. J.d. Gallop, USA TODAY, "Two firefighters went missing Friday on a fishing trip. Their search remains ongoing," 18 Aug. 2019 SpaceX wouldn’t return to flight until 2017, after zeroing in on the issue with a pressure vessel that caused the explosion during a static fire test on the Space Coast. Chabeli Herrera,, "SpaceX finally launches satellite for company whose payload it lost in 2016 explosion," 7 Aug. 2019 There were rumors that it would be used as a touring vessel. Greg Burnett,, "USS Cod celebrates 60 years on Cleveland’s lakefront," 17 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vessel.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of vessel

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for vessel

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin vascellum, diminutive of Latin vas vase, vessel

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about vessel

Dictionary Entries near vessel





vessel element

vessel ton


Statistics for vessel

Last Updated

8 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for vessel

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for vessel



English Language Learners Definition of vessel

formal : a ship or large boat
technical : a vein or artery that carries blood through the body
somewhat old-fashioned : a hollow container for holding liquids


ves·​sel | \ ˈve-səl How to pronounce vessel (audio) \

Kids Definition of vessel

1 : a craft larger than a rowboat for navigation of the water
2 : a hollow utensil (as a cup or bowl) for holding something
3 : a tube (as an artery) in which a body fluid is contained and carried or circulated


ves·​sel | \ ˈves-əl How to pronounce vessel (audio) \

Medical Definition of vessel

: a tube or canal (as an artery, vein, or lymphatic) in which a body fluid (as blood or lymph) is contained and conveyed or circulated

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on vessel

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with vessel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for vessel

Spanish Central: Translation of vessel

Nglish: Translation of vessel for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on vessel

What made you want to look up vessel? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


authorized for issue (as a bond)

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!