mis·​tress | \ ˈmi-strəs How to pronounce mistress (audio) \

Definition of mistress

1 : a woman who has power, authority, or ownership: such as
a : the female head of a household the mistress of the house
b : a woman who employs or supervises servants The servants were required to do their mistress's bidding without question.
c : a woman who possesses, owns, or controls something the mistress of a large fortune Whether mongrels or thoroughbreds … dogs have shared their masters' and mistresses' experiences in almost all walks of life.— Robert Rosenblum
d : a woman who is in charge of a school or other establishment : headmistress Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a school— Jane Austen
e : a woman of the Scottish nobility having a status comparable to that of a master (see master sense 3b)
2a chiefly British : a female teacher or tutor
b : a woman who has achieved mastery in some field She was a mistress of music. You learn how to chop throats and gouge eyes and stomp insteps … and after eight weeks you're given your diploma, which officially declares you a mistress of unarmed combat.— Arthur R. Miller
c : a woman considered especially notable for something After penning several apocalyptic books, she became known as the mistress of doom.
3 : something personified as female that rules, directs, or dominates … France was master of the Continent, England mistress of the seas.— James MacGregor Burns Yet he was sharp and self-interested enough (serving, that is, his demanding mistress, Painting) to write more than 400 letters …— Ronald Pickvance
4a : a woman other than his wife with whom a married man has a continuing sexual relationship
b archaic : sweetheart
5a used archaically as a title prefixed to the name of a married or unmarried woman
b chiefly Southern US and Midland US used as a conventional title of courtesy except when usage requires the substitution of a title of rank or an honorific or professional title before a married woman's surname : mrs. sense 1a
6 : an often professional dominatrix With each addition of pain or restraint, he stiffens slightly, then falls into a deeper calm, a deeper peace, waiting to obey his mistress.— Marianne Apostolides

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Synonyms for mistress


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Examples of mistress in a Sentence

Servants were required to do the mistress's bidding without question. The dog was always obedient to its master and mistress. the master and mistress of the house a married man who has a mistress His wife suspected that the woman she'd seen with him was his mistress.
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Recent Examples on the Web Joanna had been prop mistress, and had collected twenty-seven working toasters from yard sales and Goodwills. Elizabeth Mccracken, Harpers Magazine, "The Souvenir Museum," 5 Jan. 2021 In 1808, facing possible arrest, Duport, disguised as a woman, slipped out of Paris with a star of the Comédie Française, who was also Napoleon’s former mistress. New York Times, "The Behind-the-Scenes Assist That Made Beethoven’s Ninth Happen," 8 Dec. 2020 Rather, du Maurier lives inside each of the three main characters of the novel: Rebecca, the second Mrs. de Winter, but also Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper who’s so fiercely and jealously protective of her former mistress’ legacy. Anne Cohen, refinery29.com, "The Real Story Behind Rebecca Is More Dramatic Than The Netflix Movie," 21 Oct. 2020 He was accused of illegally arranging for two of his wealthy supporters to pay $925,000 to help him keep his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, out of public view during a critical phase of the primary campaign. New York Times, "Can America Restore the Rule of Law Without Prosecuting Trump?," 18 Nov. 2020 There are other conspiracy theories, including that Oswald had a Mexican mistress who took him to a party of communists and spies. Gonzalo Soltero, The Conversation, "JFK conspiracy theory is debunked in Mexico 57 years after Kennedy assassination," 19 Nov. 2020 Producers were casting the role of Charles’ longtime mistress. Meredith Blake Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Emma Corrin was always drawn to Princess Diana. Now she knows her from the inside out," 15 Nov. 2020 Mankiewicz took it upon himself to provide a copy of the script to Charles Lederer, a friend and screenwriter who also happened to be the nephew of Hearst’s mistress, the actress Marion Davies. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "Herman Mankiewicz, Pauline Kael, and the Battle Over “Citizen Kane”," 14 Nov. 2020 Her great-great grandmother Alice Keppel was famously the favorite mistress of King Edward VII. Olivia Hosken, Town & Country, "Who is Alice Keppel? Camilla's Ancestor was Mistress to King Edward VII," 24 Nov. 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for mistress

Middle English maistresse, from Anglo-French mestresse, feminine of mestre master — more at master

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Time Traveler for mistress

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for mistress

Last Updated

11 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mistress.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistress. Accessed 19 Jan. 2021.

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How to pronounce mistress (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of mistress

: a woman who has a servant or slave
: a woman who owns a pet (such as a dog)
formal : the female head of a household


mis·​tress | \ ˈmi-strəs How to pronounce mistress (audio) \

Kids Definition of mistress

1 : a female teacher
2 : a woman who has control or authority over another person, an animal, or a thing … the old woman had no loyalty toward her mistress— Esther Forbes, Johnny Tremain

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