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fee simple

See under fee (def 4a).
Origin of fee simple
late Middle English
1425-75; late Middle English < Anglo-French


[fee] /fi/
a charge or payment for professional services:
a doctor's fee.
a sum paid or charged for a privilege:
an admission fee.
a charge allowed by law for the service of a public officer.
  1. an estate of inheritance in land, either absolute and without limitation to any particular class of heirs (fee simple) or limited to a particular class of heirs (fee tail)
  2. an inheritable estate in land held of a feudal lord on condition of the performing of certain services.
  3. a territory held in fee.
a gratuity; tip.
verb (used with object), feed, feeing.
to give a fee to.
Chiefly Scot. to hire; employ.
1250-1300; Middle English < Anglo-French; Old French fie, variant of fief fief. See feudal
Related forms
feeless, adjective
overfee, noun
superfee, noun
1. stipend, salary, emolument; honorarium. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for fee-simple
Historical Examples
  • It had never occurred to me that a parson has no fee-simple in the house and glebe he occupies.

  • Not if you were to give me the fee-simple of the barbarous tract you covet.

    Luttrell Of Arran Charles James Lever
  • A sum nearly equal, at that time, to the fee-simple of the three parishes.

  • Mine host, mine host, we lay all night at the George in Waltham; but whether the George be your fee-simple or no, 'tis a question.

  • These things now had passed away, and the first fee-simple of the Hockin family became a mere load and incumbrance.

    Erema R. D. Blackmore
  • These titles give as complete control over the surface of the land as a fee-simple title would do.

  • He was born only with the life-interest, and he has determined to treat it as though the fee-simple had belonged to him.

    Mr. Scarborough's Family Anthony Trollope
  • My chance of possessing the estate in fee-simple increased: I sold this increased value to the Jews, and gamed on.

  • It would, in these counties, cost a tenth part of the worth of the fee-simple of the land.

    Rural Rides William Cobbett
  • An I were so apt to quarrel as thou art, any man should buy the fee-simple of my life for an hour and a quarter.

British Dictionary definitions for fee-simple


a payment asked by professional people or public servants for their services: a doctor's fee, school fees
a charge made for a privilege: an entrance fee
(property law)
  1. an interest in land capable of being inherited See fee simple, fee tail
  2. the land held in fee
(in feudal Europe) the land granted by a lord to his vassal
an obsolete word for a gratuity
in fee
  1. (law) (of land) in absolute ownership
  2. (archaic) in complete subjection
verb fees, feeing, feed
(rare) to give a fee to
(mainly Scot) to hire for a fee
Derived Forms
feeless, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Old French fie, of Germanic origin; see fief

fee simple

(property law) an absolute interest in land over which the holder has complete freedom of disposition during his life Compare fee tail
Word Origin
C15: from Anglo-French: fee (or fief) simple
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for fee-simple



late 13c., from Old French fieu, fief "fief, possession, holding, domain; feudal duties, payment," from Medieval Latin feodum "land or other property whose use is granted in return for service," widely said to be from Frankish *fehu-od "payment-estate," or a similar Germanic compound, in which the first element is cognate with Old English feoh "money, movable property, cattle" (also German Vieh "cattle," Gothic faihu "money, fortune"), from PIE *peku- "cattle" (cf. Sanskrit pasu, Lithuanian pekus "cattle;" Latin pecu "cattle," pecunia "money, property"); second element similar to Old English ead "wealth."

OED rejects this, and suggests a simple adaptation of Germanic fehu, leaving the Medieval Latin -d- unexplained. Sense of "payment for services" first recorded late 14c. Fee-simple is "absolute ownership," as opposed to fee-tail "entailed ownership," inheritance limited to some particular class of heirs (second element from Old French taillir "to cut, to limit").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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