Definition of mistress in US English:



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

    ‘she is always mistress of the situation, coolly self-possessed’
    figurative ‘work is an unforgiving, implacable mistress’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘At the end, the Chinese mistress of ceremonies slipped up by saying ‘goodbye’ in Japanese.’
    • ‘Once she recognizes the historical constitution of the plantation mistress, Peterkin elects to reproduce it through her own activities.’
    • ‘Double congrats to the mistress of ceremonies for putting on such a great show.’
    • ‘The post mistress raises our flag in front of the post office.’
    • ‘Emancipation changed the nature of plantation mistresses' work but not the plantation's schedule.’
    • ‘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.’
    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’
      • ‘It was initiated, in part by Marta, Tomas's mistress and the local schoolteacher.’
      • ‘The head mistress looked very warm and welcoming, although stern and strict too.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In 1963 she became mathematics and science mistress at Danebank and remained here on part-time duties until 1974.’
      • ‘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.’
      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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Irritation, however, was hardly noble, and the dark mistress of science was finding it… well, irritating.’
      • ‘I am an amateur wardrobe mistress who has been given items of fur over the years.’
      • ‘For all the protestations, she appears to remain the Mistress of Masquerade.’
      • ‘It soon becomes clear that Aurora is a mistress of misinformation.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Athill is the mistress of a cool, seemingly careless style.’
      • ‘Stripping off the costume the wardrobe mistresses had to take in about half a centimetre of the costume since Friday!’
      • ‘Such a warrior is invariably a veteran, and a mistress of the art of war.’
      • ‘And they are the masters (and mistresses!) at teaching the others how to party.’
      • ‘Diana was a mistress of manipulation of the press.’
      • ‘If I hadn't become a successful actor I'd have been a wardrobe mistress, without a doubt.’
    3. 1.3 The female owner of a dog, cat, or other domesticated animal.
      • ‘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’
      • ‘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 Mistress and Master were out on business, and I clearly remembered the warning I had been given.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She found out later that her ex had told them all not to look the mistress of the house directly in the eyes.’
      • ‘Eventually it was answered by a maid who went in search of the Mistress.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The manner of the mistress of the house showed that she entirely agreed with him.’
    5. 1.5 (especially formerly) a female employer of domestic staff.
      • ‘Leanne was rather taken aback by her mistress's comment, but nodded.’
      • ‘Although mistresses sometimes taught their female slaves specific skills, slave women themselves normally transmitted those skills from one generation to the next.’
      • ‘There can be no love between mistress and slave.’
      • ‘Servants observed their mistresses behaving exactly as domestics were trained not to act.’
  • 2A woman having an extramarital sexual relationship, especially with a married man.

    ‘Elsie knew her husband had a mistress tucked away somewhere’
    • ‘And with them, the practice of British men taking Indian brides or mistresses passed into history.’
    • ‘He had six sons and two daughters by various wives, concubines and mistresses.’
    • ‘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 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.’
    • ‘However, she refused to be the mistress of the king.’
    • ‘A love triangle goes wrong when a seventeen-year-old mistress takes out her lover's wife.’
    • ‘Renee wondered if her husband's mistress was younger and prettier than she was.’
    • ‘These were more traditionally expected from mistresses, wives, and mothers than from masters, husbands, and fathers.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The problem with Jamie was that he had no money to keep a long term mistress.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Indeed, during the period investigated, forty-five men were convicted of maltreatment of their wives, fiancées or mistresses.’
    • ‘He was sleeping with the mistress of one of the leading mobsters in the country.’
    • ‘He surrounded himself with witty courtiers and kept many beautiful mistresses.’
    • ‘There is a story about a daughter's ambiguous ties with her father's mistress.’
    • ‘Clothing may be given only to sisters, mistresses, and wives.’
    • ‘She was the mistress of a king and caused him to lose his kingdom.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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
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    1. 2.1literary, archaic 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’.