prima donna

[pree-muh don-uh, prim-uh; Italian pree-mah dawn-nah]

noun, plural pri·ma don·nas, Italian pri·me don·ne [pree-me dawn-ne] /ˈpri mɛ ˈdɔn nɛ/.

a first or principal female singer of an opera company.
a temperamental person; a person who takes adulation and privileged treatment as a right and reacts with petulance to criticism or inconvenience.

Origin of prima donna

1760–70; < Italian: literally, first lady; see prime, duenna Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for prima donna

Historical Examples of prima donna

  • One might have thought she was applauding the prima-donna; but no, she was applauding herself.


    Maurus Jokai

  • I must have the good-will of all, be obeyed by all, from prima-donna to scene-shifter.

    Great Musical Composers

    George T. Ferris

  • "Prima-donna—prima-donna," she murmured softly and wonderingly.

    The Red Debt

    Everett MacDonald

  • Incidentally, it was learned that dolls were tabooed by this prima-donna in pinafores.

    Stars of the Opera

    Mabel Wagnalls

  • Some further random questions about the experiences of a prima-donna elicited the following item.

    Stars of the Opera

    Mabel Wagnalls

British Dictionary definitions for prima donna

prima donna

noun plural prima donnas

a female operatic star; diva
informal a temperamental person

Word Origin for prima donna

C19: from Italian: first lady
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 prima donna

1782, "principal female singer in an opera," from Italian prima donna "first lady," from Latin prima, fem. of primus "first" (see prime (adj.)) + domina "lady" (see dame). Meaning "temperamental person" first recorded 1834.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

prima donna in Culture

prima donna

[(pree-muh, prim-uh don-uh)]

A vain and overly sensitive person who is temperamental and difficult to work with: “That Jenkins girl is a good gymnast, but she certainly is a prima donna.” In opera, the prima donna is the principal female soloist. From Italian, meaning “first lady.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.