hand·​maid·​en | \ˈhan(d)-ˌmā-dᵊn \
variants: or less commonly handmaid \ ˈhan(d)-​ˌmād \

Definition of handmaiden 

1 : a personal maid or female servant

2 : something whose essential function is to serve or assist criticism is not the enemy of art but rather its handmaiden— Gary Michael

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Examples of handmaiden in a Sentence

the princess was intensely shy, and allowed only her handmaiden to enter her chambers

Recent Examples on the Web

Nasim Pedrad: plays Dalia, the handmaiden to Princess Jasmine. Sydney Odman, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Aladdin': Everything to Know About the Live-Action Remake of the Disney Classic," 5 July 2018 The Nazis were by no means the handmaidens of German industry or the German military but, as Hett argues, both businessmen and officers formed lobbies in the late 1920s that aimed to break the republic and its bastion, the Social Democrats. Timothy Snyder, New York Times, "How Did the Nazis Gain Power in Germany?," 14 June 2018 Trump has advanced a vision of American democracy that paints the President as all-powerful, the Attorney General and the Congress as his handmaidens, the top law enforcement and intelligence agencies as corrupt bureaucrats. Tessa Berenson, Time, "Donald Trump’s Campaign to Discredit the Russia Investigation May Be Working. It’s Also Damaging American Democracy," 7 June 2018 Why did Vitali walk away from acting and devote himself to the thankless role of artistic handmaiden? Ty Burr, BostonGlobe.com, "‘Filmworker’ pays attention to the man behind the curtain," 23 May 2018 As pundits continue to parse out whether the joke was offensive or fair game, the fictional Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) continues to terrorize the handmaidens in Season 2, including staging a mock execution. Andrew R. Chow, New York Times, "What’s on TV Wednesday: ‘Being Serena’ and ‘The Americans’," 2 May 2018 For mezzo-soprano Sandra Ross, who plays Suzuki, Butterfly's handmaiden, the goal is to incite sympathy, especially in light of current events, for a woman treated unfairly and then denied the ability to demand justice. Zachary Lewis, cleveland.com, "Cleveland Opera Theater pushing relevance with new production of 'Madama Butterfly' (preview)," 25 Apr. 2018 And alongside him, Mary Magdalene is a heartsick handmaiden. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert': TV Review," 2 Apr. 2018 Aya Cash and Gillian Jacobs star as K Street queens (well, one is a queen; the other is more the handmaiden type), wooing a straight-arrow politician (Eisa Davis). Alexis Soloski, New York Times, "15 Plays and Musicals to Go to in NYC This Weekend," 29 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'handmaiden.' 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 handmaiden

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

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English Language Learners Definition of handmaiden

: a female servant or maid

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obstinately defiant of authority

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