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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. [From c.1300]
    • 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”, in American Scientist[1], 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 craft designed for transportation through air or space. [From 1915]
  3. (uncountable, obsolete or dialectal) Dishes and cutlery collectively, especially if made of precious metals. [c.1300–c.1600]
    • 1523, John Bourchier, tr. Jean Froissart, Here begynneth the first volum of sir Iohan Froyssart : of the cronycles of Englande, Fraunce, Spayne, Portyngale, Scotlande, Bretayne, Flauders: and other places adioynynge.:
      All his Vessell was of golde and siluer, pottis, basons, ewers, dysshes, flagons, barels, cuppes, and all other thyngis.
  4. A container of liquid or other substance, such as a glass, goblet, cup, bottle, bowl, or pitcher. [From c.1300]
  5. A person as a container of qualities or feelings. [From 1382]
    • 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.
  6. (biology) A tube or canal that carries fluid in an animal or plant. [From 1398]
    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 or vesseling, simple past and past participle vesselled or vesseled)

  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.