Definition of beguinage in English:


Pronunciation: /beɪɡɪˈnɑːʒ//ˈbeɪɡɪnədʒ/


  • A house for members of a lay sisterhood in the Low Countries.

    • ‘The Counterreformation helped establish new charitable institutions, the case di carita, that were geared toward the support of single women from the lower classes but also allowed some upper-class women a retreat from marriage (in ways that resemble the beguinages of northern Europe).’
    • ‘The Beguines were free to leave the beguinage and resume their old lives when their husbands returned from war.’
    • ‘He has looked at archival manuscripts from some 300 communities, and further research on beguinages will have to begin with his findings.’
    • ‘The Dutch revolt against Spain in the sixteenth century broke the continuity of beguinages, even though some persisted through the nineteenth century.’
    • ‘After rather informal beginnings in a context of religious independence and women's work, beguinages became large, well-established institutions by the fourteenth century.’
    • ‘Ales Malachine, who worked at the beguinage, was a wool comber.’
    • ‘In the twelfth century there was a sudden multiplication of women's hospices, houses of reclusion, and beguinages of all sizes.’
    • ‘There were also a few men resident in the beguinage of St Elizabeth of Lille in the later Middle Ages.’
    • ‘Beguinages provided a home for women who wished to live chastely and piously with other women while also working in the urban economy, and who chose not to take permanent religious vows.’


Late 17th century: from French béguine (see beguine) + -age.