Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



From Late Middle English enfeffen (to grant (property, rights, etc.) under the feudal system) [and other forms],[1] from Old French enfeffer, enfieffer (compare Anglo-Latin infeoffāre, Anglo-Norman enfeoffer), from en- (prefix meaning ‘in, into’) + fief (estate held by a person on condition of providing military service to a superior)[2] (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *peku-, *peḱu- (sheep)). The English word is analysable as en- +‎ feoff.



enfeoff (third-person singular simple present enfeoffs or (obsolete) enfeoffes, present participle enfeoffing, simple past and past participle enfeoffed)

  1. (transitive, chiefly law, historical) To transfer a fief to, to endow with a fief; to put (a person) in legal possession of a freehold interest.
    Synonym: feoff
    • [1442, William Paston, Justice of the Common Pleas, Shipton v. Dogge (No. 2); Doige’s Case (Y. B. Trinity 20 Hen. VI, folio 34, pl. 4; Selden Society volume 51, page 97); quoted in A[lfred] W[illiam] B[rian] Simpson, “The Action for Breach of Promise”, in A History of the Common Law of Contract: The Rise of the Action of Assumpsit, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Clarendon Press, 1975, →ISBN, part II (The Action for Breach of Promise), page 257:
      Suppose a man bargains to enfeoff me, as in our case here, and he afterwards enfeoffs another, and then he re-enters [i.e. on the first feoffee] and enfeoffs me, and the other ousts me. Now here the action of covenant may not be brought, because he has at last enfeoffed me according to his covenant, and yet the deceit remains upon which an action may be based. Wherefore it does not always follow that where there is a covenant the action of deceit will not lie.]
    • [1466 April 29, “XXXV. The Will of Ranulph Pigot, Esq. of Clotherham. [...] Apr. 20, 1466 [Julian calendar]”, in James Raine, Jun., editor, Testamenta Eboracensia. A Selection of Wills from the Registry at York (The Publications of the Surtees Society; XLV), volume III, Durham, County Durham: Published for the Society by Andrews and Co., []; London: Whittaker and Co., [], published 1865, OCLC 810837900, page 158:
      I have infeffed Richarde Pygot, sarjeaunt of the lawe, John Norton, knyght, John Pygott of Rypon, gentilman, and Sir Thomas Nobull, prest, in lands and tenements within the fraunchese of Rypon, [...]]
    • 1582, John Jewel, Io[hn] Garbrand, editor, A Viewe of a Seditious Bul sent into Englande, from Pius Quintus Bishop of Rome, Anno. 1569. [], London: Printed by R[alph] Newberie & H[enry] Bynneman, OCLC 56383927; republished in Richard William Jelf, editor, The Works of John Jewel, D.D. Bishop of Salisbury. [...] In Eight Volumes, volume VII, Oxford, Oxfordshire: At the University Press, 1848, OCLC 184750549, page 242:
      And all this he [Pope Pius V] doth to enfeoff the pope with that fulness of power wherunto he entitleth Peter.
    • 1628, Edw[ard] Coke, “Of Rents”, in The First Part of the Institvtes of the Lawes of England. [], London: Printed [by Adam Islip] for the Societe of Stationers, OCLC 84760833, book 2, chapter 12, section 224, folio 150, recto:
      If a man hath iſſue two Daughters and grant a Rent charge out of his land to one of them and dyeth the Rent ſhall be apportioned, and if the Grantee in this caſe enfeoffeth another of her part of the land, yet the moity of the Rent remaineth iſſuing out of her ſiſters part, becauſe the part of the Grantee in the land by the diſcent was diſcharged of the Rent.
    • 1648 February, Barbara Taft, “‘They that Persew Perfaction on Earth …’: The Political Progress of Robert Overton”, in Ian Gentles, John Morrill, and Blair Worden, editors, Soldiers, Writers and Statesmen of the English Revolution, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Cambridge University Press, published 1998, →ISBN, page 289:
      [I]n February 1648, in a letter to [Thomas] Fairfax's secretary, [Robert] Overton expresses pleasure that the king's servants have been removed and suggests that it would 'prove a happy privation if the Father would please to dispossess him of three transitory kingdoms to infeoff him in an eternal one'.
    • 1718, Anthony Fitz-Herbert [i.e., Anthony Fitzherbert], “Writ de Deceit”, in The New Natura Brevium of the Most Reverend Judge, Mr. Anthony Fitz-Herbert. [], 6th corrected edition, in the Savoy [London]: Printed by Eliz[abeth] Nutt, and R. Gosling, (assigns of Edw[ard] Sayer Esq;) for B. Lintott [], R. Gosling []; and T. Ward [], OCLC 26870967, page 217:
      And if a Man doth bargain with another to enfeoff him of certain Lands, and afterwards he enfeoffeth another Man, he with whom he made the Bargain, ſhall have a Writ of Diſceit.
    • 1734, Thomas Hope; John Spotiswood, “Numb[er] IV. The Method of Expeding Infeftments in Lands, Annualrents, Heritable Jurisdictions and Offices Holding of His Majesty, through the Whole Registers and Seals.”, in Practical Observations upon Divers Titles of the Law of Scotland, Commonly Called Hope’s Minor Practicks. [], Edinburgh: Printed and sold by A. Davison [], OCLC 228756608, page 553:
      There paſſes this Seal alſo a Precept, which is called the Fourth Precept, directed to a Sheriff in that Part, for infefting in Lands holden of a ſubject Superior, after the three Precepts are run againſt him.
    • 1738, E[phraim] Chambers, “ESTATE”, in Cyclopædia: Or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences; [] In Two Volumes, volume I (A–K), 2nd corrected and amended edition, London: Printed for D. Midwinter [et al.], OCLC 951657352, column 2:
      Estate ſimple, called alſo fee ſimple, is where a man by deed indented, enfeoffes another in fee, reſerving to him and his heirs a yearly rent; with this proviſo, that if the rent be behind, &c., it ſhall be lawful for the feoffer and his heirs, to enter.
    • 1847, John Hill Burton, “Constitution of Rights in Land”, in Manual of the Law of Scotland. [...] The Law of Private Rights and Obligations, 2nd enlarged edition, Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, []; London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co., OCLC 1021879059, part II (The Various Classes of Property and Their Respective Tenures), section 3 (Feu-charter), page 54:
      The deed by which a fee is brought into existence, or by which the superior authorizes a person to hold lands of him as his vassal, and entitles the vassal to be put in personal possession of such lands, is called a Feu-charter. It consists in general of the following clauses. [...] 10. Precept of Sasine, by which the superior empowers the vassal to be infeft.
    • 1990, Mark Edward Lewis, “The Warring State”, in Sanctioned Violence in Early China (SUNY Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture), Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, →ISBN, page 54:
      [T]he Zhou conquerors had attempted to control their vast new territories through "enfeoffing" relatives and allies in walled towns throughout their kingdom.
    • 2016, Peter H[amish] Wilson, “Kingship”, in The Holy Roman Empire: A Thousand Years of Europe’s History, London: Allen Lane, Penguin Books, →ISBN; Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire, 1st Harvard University Press edition, Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2016, →ISBN, part III (Governance), page 331:
      Hereditary fiefs meant that the king could not refuse to enfeoff a legitimate, able-bodied heir, but renewal was still required for the successor to exercise any rights or functions associated with the fief.
  2. (transitive, figurative) To give up completely; to surrender, to yield.
    Synonym: cede
    • 1876, Thomas Hardy, “Ethelberta’s House (continued)—The British Museum”, in The Hand of Ethelberta: A Comedy in Chapters [...] In Two Volumes, volume I, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], OCLC 912954463, page 265:
      [M]ore than one well-wisher who observed Ethelberta from afar feared that it might some day come to be said of her that she had / Enfeoffed herself to popularity: / That, being daily swallow'd by men's eyes, / They surfeited with honey, and began / To loathe the taste of sweetness, whereof a little / More than a little is by much too much.
    • 1992, Marie-Christine Leps, “Textual Construction: Producing Information”, in Apprehending the Criminal: The Production of Deviance in Nineteenth-century Discourse, Durham, N.C.; London: Duke University Press, →ISBN, part II (The Press), page 96:
      Le Matin will be a newspaper which will not have any political opinions, which will not be enfeoffed to any bank, which will not sell its patronage to any business; it will be a newspaper giving news information, telegraphic, universal and true.


Alternative forms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



Further reading[edit]