1 a : the fidelity of a vassal or feudal tenant to his lord
b : the obligation of such fidelity
2 : intense fidelity
Did You Know?
In The Use of Law, published posthumously in 1629, Francis Bacon wrote, "Fealty is to take an oath upon a book, that he will be a faithful Tenant to the King." That's a pretty accurate summary of the early meaning of fealty. Early forms of the term were used in Middle English around 1300, when they specifically designated the loyalty of a vassal to a lord. Eventually, the meaning of the word broadened. Fealty can be paid to a country, a principle, or a leader of any kind—though the synonyms fidelity and loyalty are more commonly used. Fealty comes from the Anglo-French word feelté, or fealté, which comes from the Latin fidelitas, meaning "fidelity." These words are ultimately derived from fides, the Latin word for "faith."
"The fealty of country music fans to their favorite stars is as strong as old-time religion." — Nicholas Dawidoff, The New Republic, 18 July 1994
"Mr. Keith was more of a rabble-rouser, from the contentiousness of his politics to the muscularity of his sound, but his fealty to tradition was never in doubt." — Jon Caramanica, The New York Times, 8 Oct. 2015
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
Fill in the blanks to create a word related to Latin fides that refers to an act of disloyalty: p _ r _ i _ y.VIEW THE ANSWER
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