- the feudal system, or its principles and practices.
- Also called: feudal system the legal and social system that evolved in W Europe in the 8th and 9th centuries, in which vassals were protected and maintained by their lords, usually through the granting of fiefs, and were required to serve under them in warSee also vassalage, fief
- any social system or society, such as medieval Japan or Ptolemaic Egypt, that resembles medieval European feudalism
a coinage of historians, first attested 1839; see feudal. Feudal system attested from 1776.
A system of obligations that bound lords and their subjects in Europe during much of the Middle Ages. In theory, the king owned all or most of the land and gave it to his leading nobles in return for their loyalty and military service. The nobles in turn held land that peasants, including serfs, were allowed to farm in return for the peasants’ labor and a portion of their produce. Under feudalism, people were born with a permanent position in society. (See fief and vassal.)