a woman holding a position corresponding to that of a prior, sometimes ranking next below an abbess.

Origin of prioress

1250–1300; Middle English prioresse < Old French. See prior2, -ess
Related formssub·pri·or·ess, noun

Usage note

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

Examples from the Web for prioress

Historical Examples of prioress

  • It seems to represent a bishop, since there are traces of a crosier, though some have taken it for a prioress.


    G.W. Wade and J.H. Wade

  • First came two monks, then six armed men of the Abbot's guard, then the Prioress and three of her nuns.

    The Lady Of Blossholme

    H. Rider Haggard

  • At Sopwell the nuns more than once tried to elect their own prioress and seem to have found the Abbot somewhat high-handed.

  • Some of them stayed away unduly long when they happened to go out with the licence of the Prioress.

  • A nun, who had been Agnes's friend, hinted at atrocious vengeance taken by the prioress for Agnes's attempt to escape.

British Dictionary definitions for prioress



a nun holding an office in her convent corresponding to that of a prior in a male religious order
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 prioress

c.1300, from Medieval Latin priorissa, from prior "head of a priory of men" (see prior (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper