Definition of fief in English:

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Pronunciation: /fēf/


1 historical An estate of land, especially one held on condition of feudal service.
Example sentences
  • During the Eastern Zhou royal power declined and there was a concomitant growth in the feudal fiefs, some becoming quasi-independent kingdoms.
  • The fief was usually land necessary to maintain the vassal, but oftentimes the vassal would receive regular payments of money from a lord.
  • After complicated manoeuvring on both sides, in 1202 King Philip announced that John had forfeited the Plantagenet fiefs in France.
2A person’s sphere of operation or control.
Example sentences
  • That way, I would retain control of my own fief, and still have the man I loved.
  • The vote on Sunday was the final stage in a peace plan to end 13 years of civil war and restore a government to Somalia, which has been divided into fiefs ruled by rival warlords since 1991 when dictator Siad Barre was ousted.
  • Brokaw and Jennings want to preserve their fiefs for just a little while longer (Brokaw retires on December 1).


Early 17th century: from French (see fee).

  • fee from Middle English:

    A word bound up with the medieval feudal system, in which the nobles held Crown land in exchange for military service while the peasants were obliged to work their lord's land and give him a share of the produce. A fee was originally a fief (early 17th century) or feudal estate, from which it developed through the meanings ‘the right to an office or pension’, ‘a tribute to a superior’, and ‘a benefit or reward’ to the modern sense. The word comes from Old French feu or fief, and is related to feudal (early 17th century).

Words that rhyme with fief

aperitif, beef, belief, brief, chief, enfeoff, grief, interleaf, leaf, Leif, lief, Mazar-e-Sharif, misbelief, motif, naif, O'Keeffe, reef, seif, Sharif, sheaf, shereef, sportif, Tenerife, thief

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: fief

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