ab·​bess | \ ˈa-bəs How to pronounce abbess (audio) \

Definition of abbess

: a woman who is the superior of a convent of nuns

Examples of abbess in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web So that is a moment when it’s really dramatized: the sacramental authority of the priest on the one hand and the local, relational authority of the abbess on the other hand. The Salt Lake Tribune, 11 May 2022 That comes from a book on Hildegard of Bingen, who was an abbess in a monastery in Germany in the eleven-hundreds. Jane Hu, The New Yorker, 30 Nov. 2021 Behind Convent Walls, his ninth film and one of the breezier entries in his filmography, checks off all these boxes with a light-on-plot chronicle of naughty nuns and their abbess’s futile efforts to wrangle them. Elle Carroll, Vulture, 6 Dec. 2021 The historical event was the investigation, conducted by the Roman Catholic Church, of Sister Benedetta Carlini, abbess of a convent in Tuscany. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, 2 Dec. 2021 In the December 16, 2021 issue of the magazine, Irina Dumitrescu reviews Matrix, Lauren Groff’s new historical novel about a medieval abbess, loosely based on the life of the poet Marie de France. Willa Glickman, The New York Review of Books, 27 Nov. 2021 If only it could be banished by an abbess, or a novel. Lorraine Berry, Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2021 Following Offa’s death in 796, Cynethryth joined a religious order and became abbess of the monastery. Livia Gershon, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 Aug. 2021 The discovery of a document detailing the occult activities of an old abbess suddenly launches us on a grail quest. Merve Emre, The New Yorker, 21 Dec. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abbess.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of abbess

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for abbess

Middle English abbesse, borrowed from Anglo-French abbesse, abeiesse, borrowed from Late Latin abbātissa, feminine derivative of abbāt-, abbās abbot

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The first known use of abbess was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near abbess

Abbe refractometer



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Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Abbess.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for abbess


ab·​bess | \ ˈa-bəs How to pronounce abbess (audio) \

Kids Definition of abbess

: the head of an abbey for women


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