Definition of governess in US English:



  • A woman employed to teach children in a private household.

    • ‘Born in London, taught by governesses, she combined her early love of drawing with a keen interest in natural history, copying flowers and drawing small animals kept as pets or found on summer holidays in Scotland and the Lakes.’
    • ‘Elizabeth was brought up in the care of governesses and tutors at Hatfield House and spent her days studying Greek and Latin with the Cambridge scholar, Roger Ascham.’
    • ‘An orphan, Doris was brought up in the respectable home of well-to-do foster parents, and was educated by a governess.’
    • ‘Only a poor minister, he knew his daughters would likely have to work as teachers or governesses, and their education would be indispensable.’
    • ‘Sometimes a governess would be employed to supervise the correspondence lessons and teach additional lessons.’
    • ‘Many young women reading Austen in her own lifetime would have become governesses, teaching the children of the rich.’
    • ‘Born in Limerick in 1930, he was one of eight children of a wealthy flour-miller and was brought up surrounded by servants and governesses.’
    • ‘I had governesses that taught me what I wanted to learn.’
    • ‘Ralph's early education was handled at home by a governess.’
    • ‘At noon, she was permitted time to eat a small meal before her governess would begin the afternoon lessons by lecture.’
    • ‘The whole top floor was turned into a nursery which she shared with her sister Margaret Rose, and both were educated privately here by governesses.’
    • ‘From the age of four, when he was taught to write by his governess, he kept a diary.’
    • ‘It was not unheard of for women of that time to work as nurses, teachers, governesses etc but my mother preferred to stay at home and take care of my three brothers and I.’
    • ‘She was taught by strict governesses in a room with barred windows on the third floor of her home.’
    • ‘As a child and adolescent, Edith was educated at home by governesses.’
    • ‘The brothers' education was amplified by long summer holidays of reading and by French and English governesses.’
    • ‘In 1921 the family returned to Poland and Mark was taught by a French governess.’
    • ‘She was educated at home in Torquay, by governesses and by her mother.’
    • ‘The wealthy paid governesses to educate their daughters at home.’
    • ‘She was educated by governesses and spent a brief period at a boarding school.’
    tutor, instructress, duenna
    View synonyms


Middle English (originally governeress, denoting a female ruler): from Old French governeresse, feminine of governeour ‘governor’, from Latin gubernator, from gubernare (see govern).