Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
January 9th, 2016
Episode 419 of 793 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 9, 2016 is: fealty \FEE-ul-tee\ noun 1 a : the fidelity of a vassal or feudal tenant to his lord b : the obligation of such fidelity 2 : intense fidelity Examples: "The fealty of country music fans to their favorite stars is as strong as old-time religion." — Nicholas Dawidoff, The New Republic, 18 July 1994 "Mr. Keith was more of a rabble-rouser, from the contentiousness of his politics to the muscularity of his sound, but hisfealtyto tradition was never in doubt." — Jon Caramanica, The New York Times, 8 Oct. 2015 Did you know? In The Use of Law, published posthumously in 1629, Francis Bacon wrote, "Fealty is to take an oath upon a book, that he will be a faithful Tenant to the King." That's a pretty accurate summary of the early meaning of fealty. Early forms of the term were used in Middle English around 1300, when they specifically designated the loyalty of a vassal to a lord. Eventually, the meaning of the word broadened. Fealty can be paid to a country, a principle, or a leader of any kind—though the synonyms fidelity and loyalty are more commonly used. Fealty comes from the Anglo-French word feelté, or fealté, which comes from the Latin fidelitas, meaning "fidelity." These words are ultimately derived from fides, the Latin word for "faith."