fee tail


  1. See under fee(def 4a).


  1. a charge or payment for professional services: a doctor’s fee.
  2. a sum paid or charged for a privilege: an admission fee.
  3. a charge allowed by law for the service of a public officer.
  4. Law.
    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.
  5. a gratuity; tip.

verb (used with object), feed, fee·ing.

  1. to give a fee to.
  2. Chiefly Scot. to hire; employ.


  1. a payment asked by professional people or public servants for their servicesa doctor’s fee; school fees
  2. a charge made for a privilegean entrance fee
  3. property law
    1. an interest in land capable of being inheritedSee fee simple, fee tail
    2. the land held in fee
  4. (in feudal Europe) the land granted by a lord to his vassal
  5. an obsolete word for a gratuity
  6. in fee
    1. law(of land) in absolute ownership
    2. archaicin complete subjection

verb fees, feeing or feed

  1. rare to give a fee to
  2. mainly Scot to hire for a fee


  1. property law
    1. a freehold interest in land restricted to a particular line of heirs
    2. an estate in land subject to such restrictionCompare 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”).

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