Definition of abbess in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈabəs/


A woman who is the head of an abbey of nuns.
Example sentences
  • Abbots, abbesses and bishops were buried with their croziers, the pastoral staffs symbolic of their office.
  • One example of this is in his sermon on St. Hilda, the seventh-century abbess who ruled over a double monastery of men and women at Whitby.
  • There are many women who, as abbesses or as ordinary nuns, did much for learning and welfare.


Middle English: from Old French abbesse 'female abbot', from ecclesiastical Latin abbatissa, from abbas, abbat- (see abbot).

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ab·bess

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