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

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 Anti-Corbyn die-hards, on the other hand, have been branded the handmaidens of a hard Brexit. Benjamin Mueller, New York Times, "At Odds With Labour, Britain’s Jews Are Feeling Politically Homeless," 21 Nov. 2019 The movie knows a thing that is, apparently, rather difficult to say: that the system of higher learning in the United States is not just an adjunct to the class system or handmaiden of it. Troy Patterson, The New Yorker, "A Lifetime Movie Nails the College-Admissions Scandal," 10 Oct. 2019 Kim Staunton is the smartest woman in the room as Olivia’s handmaiden and Sir Toby’s paramour. Lisa Kennedy, The Know, "Review: The accent is on the hilarious at the Denver Center’s “Twelfth Night”," 30 Nov. 2019 Just as archaeology has been a handmaiden of nationalism, Israeli historiography has worked to subjugate the experiences of Mizrahi Jews to the preferred narratives of Ashkenazi Zionism. Harper's magazine, "Letters," 28 Oct. 2019 The Dworshak Dam’s inevitable handmaiden was the largest hatchery in the Pacific Northwest, a complex that now helps release 5 million hatchlings into Idaho rivers every year. Patrick Symmes, Harper's magazine, "The $68,000 Fish," 28 Oct. 2019 Meritocracy was conceived as the handmaiden to equality of opportunity, common usage still treats the two as equivalent, and outrage at elite self-dealing implicitly valorizes meritocratic ideals. Daniel Markovits, Time, "American Universities Must Choose: Do they Want to be Equal or Elite?," 12 Sep. 2019 An important one is rethinking the role the U.S. has played as the handmaiden in Beijing’s decades-long global isolation of Taiwan. Therese Shaheen, National Review, "The Need to Clarify and Strengthen Our Relationship with Taiwan," 11 Sep. 2019 Yet the outrage marshaled by the media, in their role as Democratic handmaidens, is deeply cynical, designed to separate Trump from suburban voters in 2020. John Kass, Twin Cities, "John Kass: Race card loses its sting as it’s overused," 29 July 2019

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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Cite this Entry

“Handmaiden.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/handmaiden. Accessed 7 Apr. 2020.

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English Language Learners Definition of handmaiden

somewhat old-fashioned : a female servant or maid

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