One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A female defender, protector, or guardian.
Late Middle English; earliest use found in John Lydgate (c1370–c1449), poet and prior of Hatfield Regis. From Anglo-Norman defenderesse, Middle French deffenderesse (French défenderesse) female defender or protector, female defendant in a legal action or suit, feminine form corresponding to défendeur.
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