[doo-en-uh, dyoo-]


(in Spain and Portugal) an older woman serving as escort or chaperon of a young lady.
a governess.

Origin of duenna

1660–70; < Spanish duenna (now dueña) < Latin domina, feminine of dominus master
Related formsdu·en·na·ship, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for duenna

Historical Examples of duenna

  • She felt that she had been rather remiss in her duties as duenna, and was angry with herself.

    Henry Dunbar

    M. E. Braddon

  • It is to be observed the duenna was of a most obliging disposition.

    Gomez Arias

    Joaqun Telesforo de Trueba y Coso

  • Then the duenna resumed, and now came the worst of her story.

    The Story of Don Quixote

    Arvid Paulson, Clayton Edwards, and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

  • He told me that O'Brien had the duenna called to his room that morning.


    Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer

  • They must be torn away at once, or my character as duenna is lost for ever.'


    Louisa M. Alcott

British Dictionary definitions for duenna



(in Spain and Portugal, etc) an elderly woman retained by a family to act as governess and chaperon to young girls

Word Origin for duenna

C17: from Spanish dueña, from Latin domina lady, feminine of dominus master
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 duenna

1660s, "chief lady in waiting upon the queen of Spain," also "an elderly woman in charge of girls from a Spanish family," from Spanish dueña "married lady, mistress" (fem. of dueño "master"), from Latin domina (see dame). Sense extended in English to "any elderly woman chaperon of a younger woman" (1708).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper