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How to pronounce vassal (audio)


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Dictionary definition of vassal

A person or entity that is bound to a more powerful ruler or authority through a formal, often feudal, relationship.
"The vassal's duties included paying taxes and performing labor on the lord's land."

Detailed meaning of vassal

In this hierarchical arrangement, the vassal pledges loyalty, service, and sometimes tribute or military support to the dominant ruler, who, in turn, offers protection and land grants to the vassal. This system of vassalage was particularly prevalent during the Middle Ages in Europe, where knights and lords swore fealty to monarchs or other nobles in exchange for land and support. Vassals played a crucial role in the feudal social structure, and their relationship with their suzerain (the more powerful ruler or authority) was defined by obligations and mutual agreements. The concept of vassalage has historical significance in understanding the dynamics of power, landownership, and loyalty in medieval societies.

Example sentences containing vassal

1. The vassal pledged loyalty to his lord in exchange for land and protection.
2. The vassals were expected to provide military aid to their lords when needed.
3. The vassal owed obedience and respect to their superior.
4. The lord provided the vassal with fiefdoms to maintain their loyalty.
5. The vassal's status in the feudal hierarchy was determined by their allegiance to their lord.
6. The vassals often had their own sub-vassals who owed them loyalty and service.

History and etymology of vassal

The noun 'vassal' has a historical etymology rooted in the feudal system of medieval Europe. It originates from the Old French word 'vassal,' which, in turn, can be traced back to the Late Latin term 'vassallus.' The Late Latin 'vassallus' was derived from the classic Latin 'vassus,' meaning a servant or attendant. In the context of the feudal system, a vassal was a person who swore allegiance and loyalty to a more powerful lord or monarch in exchange for protection, land, or other privileges. This bond was formalized through a ceremony known as 'homage,' during which the vassal would kneel before the lord and pledge their loyalty. Thus, the term 'vassal' carries with it the historical connotation of a subordinate entity bound by a formal, contractual relationship to a more authoritative ruler or authority figure.

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Further usage examples of vassal

1. The lord could grant vassalage to a person as a reward for their loyalty and service.
2. The vassal's relationship with their lord was based on mutual obligation and trust.
3. The vassal's loyalty was tested when their lord went to war or faced a crisis.
4. The vassal's land and status were subject to forfeiture if they failed to fulfill their duties.
5. The vassalage system was an important part of medieval society and influenced the development of feudalism.
6. In the feudal era, a vassal swore an oath of allegiance to their lord in exchange for land and protection.
7. Vassals played a crucial role in the feudal hierarchy, serving as the backbone of the system.
8. Lords granted parcels of land, known as fiefs, to their vassals, who, in turn, provided military service.
9. A vassal's loyalty to their liege lord was unwavering, even in the face of adversity.
10. The feudal contract between a lord and vassal was formalized through rituals and oaths.
11. Knights, as elite vassals, were highly skilled in combat and often held positions of honor.
12. Vassalage was a complex web of relationships, with some vassals having their own vassals.
13. Lords rewarded loyal vassals with titles, privileges, and sometimes additional lands.
14. The vassal's duty encompassed not only military service but also managing the lord's estates.
15. As a vassal state, they acknowledged the overlordship of a more powerful kingdom.
16. The feudal system relied on the mutual obligations and responsibilities of lords and vassals.
17. Vassals were essential for maintaining order, protecting lands, and upholding the lord's authority.
18. In return for their service, vassals enjoyed certain rights and protections under feudal law.
19. The medieval world was structured around the vassal's pledge of fealty to their liege lord.
20. Vassals upheld the code of chivalry, emphasizing honor, bravery, and loyalty.
21. The feudal contract could be inherited, passing from one generation of vassals to the next.
22. Vassalage was a complex social and political institution that shaped the Middle Ages.
23. The relationship between lord and vassal was both hierarchical and interdependent.
24. Knights were often celebrated as heroic vassals, defending their lord's interests on the battlefield.
25. The medieval world's stability depended on the faithfulness and obligations of lords and vassals.



servant, lord, master, superior


SAT 4 (Scholastic Assessment Test), Authority and Control, Leadership and Governance

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