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 While the palace, covered in the most lifelife carvings, was considered an unrivaled architectural masterpiece, it was eventually dismantled in 1682 by Charles II’s mistress Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, to settle her gambling debts. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Part of Henry VIII’s Birthplace Discovered," 18 Aug. 2017 Some of them openly longed for European moral norms, where husbands, wives, and mistresses supposedly all learn to get along. David French, National Review, "Conservatives Need to Remember, Presidents Affect Culture," 16 Aug. 2017 According to Teresa Pond, before her father Bob Pond married Roberta Evatt in 1969, a friend of Bob's pulled Evatt aside and warned her about her groom's mistress: the theater. Author: Tamara Ikenberg, Alaska Dispatch News, "Anchorage theater legend Bob Pond dies at age 80," 4 Aug. 2017 Sybil Sage, a television writer and mosaic artist, describes Alexa’s place in her household as a cross between a mistress and a nurse. Penelope Green, The Seattle Times, "How Amazon’s Alexa found a place in our homes and in some hearts," 12 July 2017

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

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

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Cite this Entry

“Mistress.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistress. Accessed 7 December 2019.

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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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Comments on mistress

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