See more synonyms for governess on

Origin of governess

1400–50; late Middle English governeress < Old French gouverneresse, feminine of gouverneur governor; see -ess
Related formsgov·er·ness·y, adjectivesub·gov·ern·ess, nounun·der·gov·ern·ess, noun

Usage note

See -ess. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for governess

nanny, guardian, mistress, teacher, tutoress, duenna

Examples from the Web for governess

Contemporary Examples of governess

Historical Examples of governess

  • Think of a mere governess, her daughter's governess, coming to that high distinction!

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • In the first place, I could not talk about it with my governess, as she would not discuss the piece at all.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • Every morning I went to the Conservatoire with my governess.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • I did not insist, but I sent for my son's governess, Mlle. Soubise.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • Your governess cannot win the confidence and respect of your children, forsooth!

British Dictionary definitions for governess


  1. a woman teacher employed in a private household to teach and train the children
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 governess

mid-15c., "female ruler," shortening of governouresse "a woman who rules" (late 14c.), from Old French governeresse "female ruler or administrator" (see governor + -ess); in the sense of "a female teacher in a private home" it is attested from 1712.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper