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

Examples of mistress in a Sentence

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 Prosecutors submitted thousands of pages of evidence and a list of more than 100 potential witnesses, including Paxton’s alleged mistress and the developer Paul, a wealthy donor. Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Washington Post, 7 Sep. 2023 The titular House of Flowers is both the family flower-shop business and the drag cabaret that the patriarch has been secretly running with his mistress. Chandra Steele, PCMAG, 30 Aug. 2023 As the invitation in the social media post teases, Prince Charles (Dominic West) married his mistress Camilla Parker Bowles (Olivia Williams) in 2005 several years after the death of Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) in 1997. Emily Zemler, Rolling Stone, 4 Sep. 2023 Driver plays the legendary Italian car maker Enzo Ferrari in the period drama, which co-stars Penélope Cruz as his wife Laura Ferrari and Shailene Woodley as Ferrari’s mistress and the mother of his second son, Pierro. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, 31 Aug. 2023 Driver stars alongside Penelope Cruz as Ferrari’s wife Laura Ferrari and Shailene Woodley as his mistress Lina Lardi. Sophia Scorziello, Variety, 30 Aug. 2023 Dating back to 1778, the original Georgian-style home that once stood on the property belonged to Maria Fitzherbert, most famously known as George IV’s mistress. Abby Montanez, Robb Report, 8 Aug. 2023 She is said to have jibed them about Camilla’s great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, being the longtime mistress of King Edward VII. Summer Lin, Los Angeles Times, 30 June 2023 Su’s boss instructs her to lie about his whereabouts on calls from both his wife and his mistress. Kyle Chayka, The New Yorker, 1 Sep. 2023 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 4 Oct. 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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