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From Old French vaissel (compare modern French vaisseau), from Latin vāscellum, diminutive of vāsculum, diminutive of vās (vessel).



vessel (plural vessels)

  1. (nautical) Any craft designed for transportation on water, such as a ship or boat.
    • 1719, Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
      But my hope was, that if I stood along this coast till I came to that part where the English traded, I should find some of their vessels upon their usual design of trade, that would relieve and take us in.
    • 2012 March 1, William E. Carter, Merri Sue Carter, “The British Longitude Act Reconsidered”, American Scientist, volume 100, number 2, page 87: 
      Conditions were horrendous aboard most British naval vessels at the time. Scurvy and other diseases ran rampant, killing more seamen each year than all other causes combined, including combat.
  2. A container of liquid, such as a glass, goblet, cup, bottle, bowl, or pitcher.
  3. A person as a container of qualities or feelings.
    • Bible, Acts ix. 15
      He is a chosen vessel unto me.
    • Milton
      [The serpent] fit vessel, fittest imp of fraud, in whom to enter.
    • Dolly Parton, The Seeker lyrics:
      I am a vessel that’s empty and useless / I am a bad seed that fell by the way.
  4. (biology) A tube or canal that carries fluid in an animal or plant.
    Blood or lymph vessels in humans, xylem or phloem vessels in plants.


Derived terms[edit]



vessel (third-person singular simple present vessels, present participle vesselling, simple past and past participle vesselled)

  1. (obsolete, transitive) To put into a vessel.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Francis Bacon to this entry?)


  • “vessel” in the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, 1974 edition.