This section is from the book "The Law Of Real Property and Other Interests In Land", by Herbert Thorn Dike Tiffany. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land .
The word "fee" was originally used in the sense of "feud," referring to land which was held of a feudal superior, in contradistinction to land held allodially; but as it came to be recognized that all land was held of a superior, the word gradually acquired the signification of an estate of inheritance, that is, one which passes to the heirs of the owner.1
While the words "fee simple," or "fee simple absolute," are ordinarily used to distinguish a fee simple estate from other estates of inheritance, hereafter discussed, such as "fee tail" or "determinable fee." the word "fee" alone, without any qualifying words, serves to designate a fee simple estate, and is not infrequently used in that sense.2
An estate in fee simple is, even in England, equivalent to the absolute interest in the property, with the exception that the lord, who is now in most cases the king, has certain rights of seigniory, rarely exercised.3 So, in this country, a fee simple is the absolute and entire property in the land; this being true for all practical purposes, even in jurisdictions in which land is to be regarded as held of the state.4