dun·​geon | \ ˈdən-jən How to pronounce dungeon (audio) \

Definition of dungeon

1 : donjon
2 : a dark usually underground prison or vault

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The words for two different parts of a castle come from the same source. The word dungeon, meaning “a dark usually underground prison,” comes from the French word donjon, which also gives us our English word donjon, meaning “an inner tower in a castle.” Dungeon was first used in English in the 14th century for the strong tower in the inner part of the castle. Defenders could retreat to this tower if attackers got inside the castle walls. Part of the tower usually included an underground room, the dungeon, usually used for prisoners. Throughout its history, the word dungeon has had many spellings. Sometimes it was spelled donjon like the French word it comes from, and sometimes in other ways. In time the spelling donjon came to be used mostly for the castle tower, and the spelling dungeon mostly for the underground room or prison.

Examples of dungeon in a Sentence

The king threw them in the dungeon.
Recent Examples on the Web Omelas is a city where all citizens live in splendor, but their comfort is made possible by the suffering of a child locked away in a dungeon. Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker, 18 Oct. 2021 Inside the castle set, guests can see a deceased Camilla with a stake through her heart near the entrance, a bloodied severed head in the dining hall and corpses hanging from chains in the dungeon. Kristen Griffith, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, 13 Oct. 2021 The demo involves a ton of traversal puzzles and a mini dungeon, with Sable finally acquiring the ability to glide in a protective red ball. Jonathan Peltz, Wired, 22 Sep. 2021 With the Dreaming City staying, that zone continues to exist, along with its strike, dungeon and raid. Paul Tassi, Forbes, 8 Oct. 2021 Toward the end of those years, the Viking and his closest lieutenants were cast into a lightless dungeon, yet nonetheless managed to break out, kidnap the emperor’s mistress and commandeer two galleys. Washington Post, 22 Sep. 2021 At the Garden, director Joseph C. Walsh has emphasized reality by substituting a modern-day detention cell for the musical’s traditional medieval Inquisition dungeon. Matthew J. Palm, orlandosentinel.com, 29 Aug. 2021 The original Dark Alliance offered a fun balance of fast action and dungeon crawling. Rob Wieland, Forbes, 11 June 2021 Like Sampson, Sharpton recalled that Carlson seemed impassive about the visit to the dungeon, but the two initially remained friendly. Michael Kranish, Anchorage Daily News, 15 July 2021

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for dungeon

Middle English dongeon, donjon, from Anglo-French donjun, from Vulgar Latin *domnion-, domnio keep, mastery, from Latin dominus lord — more at dominate

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Time Traveler for dungeon

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near dungeon

Dungeness crab



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Last Updated

23 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dungeon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dungeon. Accessed 28 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for dungeon



English Language Learners Definition of dungeon

: a dark underground prison in a castle


dun·​geon | \ ˈdən-jən How to pronounce dungeon (audio) \

Kids Definition of dungeon

: a dark usually underground prison


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