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Fiefdom is an interesting word that dates to the 1600s. We will examine the meaning of the word fiefdom including its connotation, where it came from and some examples of its use today.

A fiefdom is a geographical area or a sphere of influence that is controlled by one individual. In a fiefdom, this individual has complete authority. The term comes from the feudal system, when an overlord would grant an income to a vassal in exchange for that vassal’s loyalty and willingness to fight. This income was a fief, and the property that generated the income, usually by the labor of peasants, was called a fiefdom. Today, fiefdom merely means a sphere of influence controlled by one individual, but the connotation is not positive. It is an insult to say that someone runs a fiefdom, as it implies that the person exercises an undue amount of autocratic and petty power.


“Some people in the past have run the DDCA as their personal fiefdom, but pleasantly, the new EC has changed that trend.” (The Hindu)

[T]he way to address emerging security challenges in space is not to try to carve out another military fiefdom, but to seek holistic, cross-domain, and cross-service solutions. (The Fiscal Times)

At the same time, Pakistan’s newspapers and TV networks face a crackdown by a military that now has the country’s judiciary providing legitimacy to them, allowing them to run the country as their private fiefdom without having to stage a coup d’état. (The Toronto Sun)

And while Nicaragua’s democracy may be flawed -Ortega introduced unlimited presidential reelection, and there are suspicions of some rigging in recent elections, which had no impartial international observers – it is still a democracy, and that is something it most definitely was not before the Sandinistas, when the Somozas ruled the country like a personal fiefdom for over 40 years. (Business News Americas)