mis·​tress ˈmi-strəs How to pronounce mistress (audio)
plural mistresses
: a woman who has power, authority, or ownership: such as
: the female head of a household
the mistress of the house
: a woman who employs or supervises servants
The servants did their mistress's bidding without question.
: 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
: a woman who is in charge of a school or other establishment : headmistress
Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a school …Jane Austen
: a woman of the Scottish nobility having a status comparable to that of a master (see master sense 3b)
chiefly British : a female teacher or tutor
: 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
: a woman considered especially notable for something
After penning several apocalyptic books, she became known as the mistress of doom.
: 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
: a woman other than his wife with whom a married man has a continuing sexual relationship
archaic : sweetheart
used archaically as a title prefixed to the name of a married or unmarried woman
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
: 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

Example Sentences

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Ruth’s husband’s mistress was also Korean, and taught at the same university. Han Ong, The New Yorker, 9 Jan. 2023 The woman then falls in love with the mistress’s son. Variety, NBC News, 30 Nov. 2022 Is the sassy mistress the Moon Person statue, the network itself, or the execs who keep nominating you? Vulture, 28 Aug. 2022 The short version goes like this: In January 1889, Crown Prince Rudolf retreated to a hunting lodge with his 17-year-old mistress, the Baroness Marie Vetsera. Elle Carroll, Vulture, 30 Nov. 2022 The building, which has a quaint brick facade and bright blue shutters, was once owned by former New York City mayor Jimmy Walker, who bought it in the 1920s for his mistress. Curbed, 12 Oct. 2022 The Queen was allegedly unhappy about her son's relationship with his former mistress. Jessica Sager, Peoplemag, 12 Aug. 2022 After Anthony's affair with his mistress in season 1, Kate comes in as his new love interest in season 2. Samantha Olson, Seventeen, 4 Jan. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'mistress.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near mistress

Cite this Entry

“Mistress.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mistress. Accessed 9 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


mis·​tress ˈmis-trəs How to pronounce mistress (audio)
: a woman who has control or authority like that of a master
the mistress of the household
: something considered as a female that rules or directs
: a woman to whom a man is not married and with whom he has a romantic relationship
used formerly as a title before the name of a woman

Middle English maistresse "mistress," from early French mestresse (same meaning), a feminine form of mestre "master" — related to master

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