Share this entry
vassal Line breaks: vas¦sal
Pronunciation: /ˈvas(ə)l/

Definition of vassal in English:


1A holder of land by feudal tenure on conditions of homage and allegiance.
Example sentences
  • Liege homage involved the vassal admitting his obligation to pay all services, including the provision of military assistance.
  • These oath-takings are critical to Tolkien's mythologising of the past because they reproduce the feudal bonds that a vassal pays to his liege lord.
  • In the feudal relationship, a vassal owed loyalty and service to a lord according to the terms of their personal agreement.
villein, liege, liegeman, man, bondsman, vavasour, serf, helot, slave, thrall, subject
1.1A person or country in a subordinate position to another: [as modifier]: a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire
More example sentences
  • The last king, who possessed only the land on the right bank of the Bosna, sought to strengthen his position by becoming a vassal of the pope.
  • About 800 years ago it was also the site of the legendary vassal state, the Western Xia Kingdom, which was finally conquered by Genghis Khan.
  • A restored Stuart monarchy would have made Britain a vassal state of France.


Pronunciation: /ˈvas(ə)lɪdʒ/
Example sentences
  • The fief overshadowed fealty, the benefice became more important than vassalage, and freemen began to swear allegiance to the highest bidder only.
  • In 1163, he attempted to firmly define his rights as feudal overlord of the Welsh princes by demanding oaths of vassalage from them at the Council of Woodstock.
  • He understood the practice of European vassalage and the importance attached to an oath taken to an lord.


Late Middle English: via Old French from medieval Latin vassallus 'retainer', of Celtic origin; compare with vavasour.

  • valet from Late Middle English:

    Rich men who could afford to employ a valet to look after their clothes had to be careful that he was also not a varlet (mid 16th century), ‘an unprincipled man’, as the words are essentially the same. French valet ‘attendant’ and its early variant varlet are related to vassal (Late Middle English), from medieval Latin vassallus ‘retainer’, which derived from a Celtic word. The first valets were 15th-century footmen who acted as attendants on a horseman.

Words that rhyme with vassal

hassle, Kassel, passel, tassel
Definition of vassal in:
Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources