chat·​e·​laine ˈsha-tə-ˌlān How to pronounce chatelaine (audio)
: the wife of a castellan : the mistress of a château
: the mistress of a household or of a large establishment
: a clasp or hook for a watch, purse, or bunch of keys

Did you know?

The original chatelaine's domain was a castle or fort, and the chatelaine's duties were many. To complete them, she certainly needed keys. In the 18th century, the word chatelaine (borrowed from the French châtelaine) took on an additional meaning in English that alluded to this: the word came to be used for a decorative clasp or hook from which chains holding a watch, purse, keys, etc. were suspended. These popular accessories evoked the bunch of keys the original chatelaine had worn of necessity.

Examples of chatelaine in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In the years since, as both chatelaine and chief executive, the duchess has brokered filming and event deals, streamlined the operations of the estate and undertaken a costly restoration to safeguard Belvoir for the next generation. Elizabeth Paton, New York Times, 11 July 2023 Madame Maigret, in turn, is the very type of the French bourgeoise chatelaine, whom Maigret both protects and patronizes. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 12 Sep. 2022 It would be attached to a chatelaine or belt, could be fastened to dress hems without damaging the fragile fabric, and would leave the woman’s hands free. oregonlive, 2 Apr. 2022 Michelle Obama was the first chatelaine of the White House to champion the work of Black designers—Tracy Reese, Laura Smalls, Duro Olowu, Byron Lars, Mimi Plange, and Maki Oh, among others. Judith Thurman, The New Yorker, 22 Mar. 2021 For women in Victorian Britain, a chatelaine—a set of steel pendants that hung from a brooch at the waist—served as a kind of Swiss Army knife. Peter Saenger, WSJ, 13 Nov. 2020 The villa’s turn of the century chatelaine, the Marchioness of Casa Torres, was a woman of immense Proustian elegance who dressed with the greatest Parisian dressmakers and milliners of the day. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, 21 June 2019 The chatelaine was a waist chain worn by Victorian women that was attached to various tools for sewing and other feminine uses. Olivia Martin, Town & Country, 18 May 2019 From a historical perspective, Sansa's chain is worn almost like a chatelaine, fixed at the waist. Olivia Martin, Town & Country, 18 May 2019 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'chatelaine.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French châtelaine, feminine of châtelain

First Known Use

1845, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of chatelaine was in 1845


Dictionary Entries Near chatelaine

Cite this Entry

“Chatelaine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on chatelaine

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!