- a woman who is the superior of a convent of nuns.
Origin of abbess
1275–1325; Middle English abbesse < Old French abbesse, abaesse < Late Latin abbātissa, feminine of abbās abbot; replacing Middle English abbatisse < Late Latin; in turn replacing Old English abadisse, abbodesse (compare Old High German abbatissa) < Late Latin *ab(b)adissa for abbātissa
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for abbess
The Abbess suddenly emerged from the gloom, and was standing in their midst.
But when Marcolina wished to kiss her hand, the Abbess gathered the girl in her arms.
I had to tell the abbess the lady's name, but not yours as she did not require it.
The abbess will bring her answers to me, and I will pass them on to you.
I hope you have the wit to laugh at the abbess's silly excommunications?
- the female superior of a convent
C13: from Old French, from Church Latin abbātissa
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Word Origin and History for abbess
c.1300, abbese, from Old French abbesse, from Late Latin abbatissa, fem. of abbas (see abbot). Replaced earlier abbotess.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper