[ ab-is ]
/ ˈæb ɪs /


a woman who is the superior of a convent of nuns.

Nearby words

  1. abbatial,
  2. abbe,
  3. abbe condenser,
  4. abbe number,
  5. abbed,
  6. abbeville,
  7. abbevillian,
  8. abbey,
  9. abbey theatre,
  10. abbey, edwin austin

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

Usage note

See -ess. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for abbess

British Dictionary definitions for abbess


/ (ˈæbɪs) /


the female superior of a convent

Word Origin for abbess

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