mis·​tress ˈmi-strəs How to pronounce mistress (audio)
: 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 were required to do 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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web In the books, Mysaria serves as mistress of whisperers—a spymaster—to Rhaenyra Targaryen. Erica Gonzales, ELLE, 17 Oct. 2022 The two met in 2012 on the set of Mad Men, where the Rory Gilmore actress had a recurring role as a mistress of Kartheiser's character, Pete Campbell. Brendan Morrow, The Week, 18 Aug. 2022 And Karen Akers’ performance as Mark’s mistress was ultimately reduced to little more than a cameo. Mark Peikert, Town & Country, 21 Oct. 2022 Willy’s mistress has an ear-bending working-class white Boston accent. Jesse Green, New York Times, 9 Oct. 2022 Bond flies to Nassau and meets CIA agent Felix Leiter and Largo’s mistress Domino Vitali, whom Bond seduces and recruits to spy on Largo. John Mariani, Forbes, 4 Oct. 2022 In one of her earliest roles, Monroe plays a young mistress to a crooked lawyer in this noir heist film about a $1 million jewel robbery in a mid-western city. Sophie Dweck, Town & Country, 25 Sep. 2022 Camilla began being described as a partner not a mistress. Kevin Sullivan, Washington Post, 14 Sep. 2022 Although Audubon claimed he was born in New Orleans, he was actually born in Haiti — then called Saint-Domingue — to a white father and a mistress on his plantation, who may have been Black. Camille Caldera, BostonGlobe.com, 30 July 2022 See More

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.

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 28 Nov. 2022.

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

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