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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.