chat·​e·​laine | \ ˈsha-tə-ˌlān How to pronounce chatelaine (audio) \

Definition of chatelaine

1a : the wife of a castellan : the mistress of a château
b : the mistress of a household or of a large establishment
2 : a clasp or hook for a watch, purse, or bunch of keys

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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 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 Many of the women guests followed the white theme, but art maven Deedie Rose, chatelaine of the stupendous Rose House, wore vibrant pastels to match her art necklace (Rose had curated some artist jewels for the silent auction). Hamish Bowles, Vogue, 1 Nov. 2018 The pathways that trellised the fragrant herb garden outside the chatelaine’s bedroom and in the far-flung potager were made from bricks imported by the British, who used them as ballast for their ships. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, 15 Aug. 2018 See More

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

First Known Use of chatelaine

1845, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for chatelaine

French châtelaine, feminine of châtelain

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The first known use of chatelaine was in 1845

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Cite this Entry

“Chatelaine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jul. 2022.

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