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vassal

[vas-uh l] /ˈvæs əl/
noun
1.
(in the feudal system) a person granted the use of land, in return for rendering homage, fealty, and usually military service or its equivalent to a lord or other superior; feudal tenant.
2.
a person holding some similar relation to a superior; a subject, subordinate, follower, or retainer.
3.
a servant or slave.
adjective
4.
of, relating to, or characteristic of a vassal.
5.
having the status or position of a vassal.
Origin
1300-1350
1300-50; Middle English < Middle French < Medieval Latin vassallus, equivalent to vass(us) servant (< Celtic; compare Welsh gwas young man, Irish foss servant) + -allus noun suffix
Related forms
vassalless, adjective
nonvassal, noun
subvassal, noun
undervassal, noun
Can be confused
vassal, vessel.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for undervassal

vassal

/ˈvæsəl/
noun
1.
(in feudal society) a man who entered into a personal relationship with a lord to whom he paid homage and fealty in return for protection and often a fief. A great vassal was in vassalage to a king and a rear vassal to a great vassal
2.
  1. a person, nation, etc, in a subordinate, suppliant, or dependent position relative to another
  2. (as modifier): vassal status
adjective
3.
of or relating to a vassal
Derived Forms
vassal-less, adjective
Word Origin
C14: via Old French from Medieval Latin vassallus, from vassus servant, of Celtic origin; compare Welsh gwas boy, Old Irish foss servant
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 undervassal

vassal

n.

mid-15c. (c.1200 as a surname) "tenant who pledges fealty to a lord," from Old French vassal, from Medieval Latin vassallus "manservant, domestic, retainer," from vassus "servant," from Old Celtic *wasso- "young man, squire" (cf. Welsh gwas "youth, servant," Breton goaz "servant, vassal, man," Irish foss "servant"). The adjective is recorded from 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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undervassal in Culture

vassal definition


Under feudalism, a subordinate who placed himself in service to a lord in return for the lord's protection.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Article for undervassal

vassal

in feudal society, one invested with a fief in return for services to an overlord. Some vassals did not have fiefs and lived at their lord's court as his household knights. Certain vassals who held their fiefs directly from the crown were tenants in chief and formed the most important feudal group, the barons. A fief held by tenants of these tenants in chief was called an arriere-fief, and, when the king summoned the whole feudal host, he was said to summon the ban et arriere-ban. There were female vassals as well; their husbands fulfilled their wives' services.

Learn more about vassal with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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