Definition of mistress in English:



  • 1A woman in a position of authority or control:

    ‘she is always mistress of the situation, coolly self-possessed’
    • ‘Emancipation changed the nature of plantation mistresses' work but not the plantation's schedule.’
    • ‘Once she recognizes the historical constitution of the plantation mistress, Peterkin elects to reproduce it through her own activities.’
    • ‘The post mistress raises our flag in front of the post office.’
    • ‘Wendy the glamorous quiz mistress indicated that there were three parts to the answer and to get the full points you needed to get all the parts right.’
    • ‘Double congrats to the mistress of ceremonies for putting on such a great show.’
    • ‘At the end, the Chinese mistress of ceremonies slipped up by saying ‘goodbye’ in Japanese.’
    • ‘Despite pleading and begging, the evil karaoke mistress would not budge.’
    • ‘They helped organize the 1963 March on Washington and were master and mistress of ceremonies.’
    doyenne, star, leading light, celebrity, big name, superstar, top dog, queen bee, prima donna, idol, heroine, favourite, darling
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    1. 1.1British [with modifier] A female schoolteacher who teaches a particular subject:
      ‘a Geography mistress’
      • ‘The head mistress looked very warm and welcoming, although stern and strict too.’
      • ‘There are others who fiddle about at the edges of things, such as the stranger's gang, the schoolmaster's mistress, a boy who comes for private lessons, the barber, the surgeon.’
      • ‘It turned out their previous teacher had been a Miss Barwell from the Home Counties, a former elocution mistress who prided herself on her cut-glass vowels.’
      • ‘The Headmaster and mistress watched the students excitedly, waiting for them to hug.’
      • ‘And of all the worst teachers, we had to be found by our discipline mistress, the strictest teacher in our whole school.’
      • ‘I recall quarrelling with Mrs. Look, our dumpy discipline mistress, because I technically didn't break any rules, and she didn't allow me in.’
      • ‘This second post also carried with it a position of assistant mistress and Cartwright soon found that she was being diverted from teaching by the administration.’
      • ‘It was initiated, in part by Marta, Tomas's mistress and the local schoolteacher.’
      • ‘Despite the frightful sound of it, this acronym does not in fact indicate some child in callipers, nor does it reference what used to be whispered about the preferred proclivities of my biology mistress at school.’
      • ‘In 1963 she became mathematics and science mistress at Danebank and remained here on part-time duties until 1974.’
      educator, tutor, instructor, pedagogue, schoolteacher, schoolmaster, schoolmistress, master, governess, educationalist, educationist
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    2. 1.2 A woman who is skilled in a particular subject or activity:
      ‘a mistress of the sound bite, she is famed for the acidity of her tongue’
      • ‘Stripping off the costume the wardrobe mistresses had to take in about half a centimetre of the costume since Friday!’
      • ‘Diana was a mistress of manipulation of the press.’
      • ‘It soon becomes clear that Aurora is a mistress of misinformation.’
      • ‘Irritation, however, was hardly noble, and the dark mistress of science was finding it… well, irritating.’
      • ‘Although I was determined to beat down critics with a stick anyway, I can do now quite happily with the confidence that yes, the mistress of rock has done it again.’
      • ‘If I hadn't become a successful actor I'd have been a wardrobe mistress, without a doubt.’
      • ‘Susan Swan is clearly the mistress of her material, and her narrative technique copes effortlessly with moving back and forth, between the journals of the past and the events of the present.’
      • ‘For all the protestations, she appears to remain the Mistress of Masquerade.’
      • ‘And they are the masters (and mistresses!) at teaching the others how to party.’
      • ‘I am an amateur wardrobe mistress who has been given items of fur over the years.’
      • ‘Such a warrior is invariably a veteran, and a mistress of the art of war.’
      • ‘Athill is the mistress of a cool, seemingly careless style.’
    3. 1.3 The female owner of a dog, cat, or other domesticated animal:
      ‘the cat rubbed itself against its mistress's legs’
      • ‘The orange striped black cat purred and stalked towards the pool table, curling through her mistress' legs.’
    4. 1.4archaic A female head of a household:
      ‘he asked for the mistress of the house’
      • ‘Eventually it was answered by a maid who went in search of the Mistress.’
      • ‘Attracted by the uproar the master and the mistress of the house and their guests hurried to the scene and invited me to await the issue of this commotion.’
      • ‘The manner of the mistress of the house showed that she entirely agreed with him.’
      • ‘She found out later that her ex had told them all not to look the mistress of the house directly in the eyes.’
      • ‘The Mistress and Master were out on business, and I clearly remembered the warning I had been given.’
      • ‘And as servants they presumably fell under the protection of the master or mistress of the household.’
      • ‘She was simply to be the mother of his children and mistress of his household.’
      • ‘She was the queen, the mistress of the house, cool and confident, beautiful and elegant.’
      • ‘If the master of an estate or the mistress of an estate has defaulted on the tax of the estate and a stranger has borne it, for three years the owner may not be evicted.’
    5. 1.5 (especially formerly) a female employer of domestic staff:
      ‘Mary, go and fetch your mistress some cold chicken’
      • ‘There can be no love between mistress and slave.’
      • ‘Although mistresses sometimes taught their female slaves specific skills, slave women themselves normally transmitted those skills from one generation to the next.’
      • ‘Leanne was rather taken aback by her mistress's comment, but nodded.’
      • ‘Servants observed their mistresses behaving exactly as domestics were trained not to act.’
  • 2A woman (other than the man's wife) having a sexual relationship with a married man:

    ‘Elsie knew her husband had a mistress tucked away somewhere’
    • ‘However, she has willingly become the mistress of one of our leaders.’
    • ‘They then abandoned their mistresses and married girls from their own class, who were substantially younger and expected to be virgins.’
    • ‘I personally thought that Carina would be rather reluctant to give up the position of King's mistress even if Edmund had promised her nothing more.’
    • ‘And with them, the practice of British men taking Indian brides or mistresses passed into history.’
    • ‘She was the mistress of a king and caused him to lose his kingdom.’
    • ‘These were more traditionally expected from mistresses, wives, and mothers than from masters, husbands, and fathers.’
    • ‘Clothing may be given only to sisters, mistresses, and wives.’
    • ‘He surrounded himself with witty courtiers and kept many beautiful mistresses.’
    • ‘He was a well known philanderer who specialized in slightly tawdry mistresses, a ne'er-do-well who barely kept up a front of respectability and who borrowed large sums of money from his son.’
    • ‘Pretty clothes and pretty faces are only a mask on the fierce games of love and hate warring between wives and mistresses, suitors and fathers.’
    • ‘He was sleeping with the mistress of one of the leading mobsters in the country.’
    • ‘Indeed, during the period investigated, forty-five men were convicted of maltreatment of their wives, fiancées or mistresses.’
    • ‘A love triangle goes wrong when a seventeen-year-old mistress takes out her lover's wife.’
    • ‘She belonged to some fancy ballroom or draped around the arm of a rich man being his mistress, not a teacher to students in an elementary school out in the middle of nowhere.’
    • ‘Renee wondered if her husband's mistress was younger and prettier than she was.’
    • ‘He had six sons and two daughters by various wives, concubines and mistresses.’
    • ‘There is a story about a daughter's ambiguous ties with her father's mistress.’
    • ‘The problem with Jamie was that he had no money to keep a long term mistress.’
    • ‘However, she refused to be the mistress of the king.’
    • ‘About his personal life, he is now said to have six mistresses, including a female petitioner who had sought his help.’
    lover, girlfriend, paramour, kept woman, live-in lover
    courtesan, concubine, inamorata, hetaera, sultana
    fancy woman, bit on the side, gun moll
    doxy, leman
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    1. 2.1archaic, literary A woman loved and courted by a man.
  • 3Mistressdialect, archaic Used as a title prefixed to the name of a married woman; Mrs.

    • ‘Among the many characters taking part were Mistress Crabby and Master Mandrake, who stopped at the fair on their way to Bolton Abbey.’


Middle English: from Old French maistresse, from maistre master.