dun·​geon | \ˈdən-jən \

Definition of dungeon 

1 : donjon

2 : a dark usually underground prison or vault

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Did You Know?

The words for two different parts of a castle come from the same source. The word dungeon, meaning “a dark usually underground prison,” comes from the French word donjon, which also gives us our English word donjon, meaning “an inner tower in a castle.” Dungeon was first used in English in the 14th century for the strong tower in the inner part of the castle. Defenders could retreat to this tower if attackers got inside the castle walls. Part of the tower usually included an underground room, the dungeon, usually used for prisoners. Throughout its history, the word dungeon has had many spellings. Sometimes it was spelled donjon like the French word it comes from, and sometimes in other ways. In time the spelling donjon came to be used mostly for the castle tower, and the spelling dungeon mostly for the underground room or prison.

Examples of dungeon in a Sentence

The king threw them in the dungeon.

Recent Examples on the Web

The scene might confuse anyone familiar with Aqrab, one of Egypt’s most notorious jails, where militants and political prisoners are packed into cramped dungeons and tortured. The Economist, "Egypt’s bumbling police get their man, at least on television," 31 May 2018 Each chapter follows a familiar pattern: you venture to a town, learn about something going on, and then head over to a dungeon to defeat the bad guy. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Octopath Traveler is a modern take on classic Final Fantasy on the Nintendo Switch," 12 July 2018 The plots weave stock swapping and legal loopholing with fist-bumping bros, strip-club sushi lunches and even an excursion to a BDSM dungeon. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, "How to Dress Like a Billionaire," 23 Apr. 2018 Yes, Shakespeare has lurked in more than a few castles and dungeons. Christopher Arnott, courant.com, "Outdoor Shakespeare This Summer: 'Pericles,' 'Love's Labour's Lost,' 'Hamlet' And...," 9 July 2018 Hundreds upon hundreds of Isz dungeons were assembled for study, and yet only 32 types of areas popped up. Patricia Hernandez, The Verge, "Bloodborne’s most hardcore players find new secrets three years after release," 20 June 2018 SUBSCRIBE TODAY Cervantes and his squire, Sancho Panza, are the newest arrivals at the dungeon, where prisoners await their disposition. Mitchel Benson, sacbee, "'Man of La Mancha' is a soul-stirring musical about hope and honor | The Sacramento Bee," 25 Apr. 2018 The free game includes a rogue-like endless dungeon mode called the Abyss, a 1 vs. 1 multiplayer Arena, and a Town mode that serves as the main game. Brad Chacos, PCWorld, "Everything Bethesda revealed at E3: Fallout 76, Doom Eternal, Elder Scrolls VI, Starfield, more," 10 June 2018 With a slave revolt brewing, Audubon’s father returned to France in the midst of the French Revolution (during which the family spent time in a dungeon for being politically suspect). Jessica Gelt, latimes.com, "The $8 million Audubon book about birds, and the amazing story behind it," 31 May 2018

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

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First Known Use of dungeon

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for dungeon

Middle English dongeon, donjon, from Anglo-French donjun, from Vulgar Latin *domnion-, domnio keep, mastery, from Latin dominus lord — more at dominate

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Time Traveler for dungeon

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

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More Definitions for dungeon



English Language Learners Definition of dungeon

: a dark underground prison in a castle


dun·​geon | \ˈdən-jən \

Kids Definition of dungeon

: a dark usually underground prison

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Comments on dungeon

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playful or foolish behavior

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