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[ab-is] /ˈæb ɪs/
a woman who is the superior of a convent of nuns.
Origin of abbess
1275-1325; Middle English abbesse < Old French abbesse, abaesse < Late Latin abbātissa, feminine of abbās abbot; replacing Middle English abbatisse < Late Latin; in turn replacing Old English abadisse, abbodesse (compare Old High German abbatissa) < Late Latin *ab(b)adissa for abbātissa
Usage note
See -ess. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for abbess
  • He told his foreman about his dream and gift and was taken immediately to see the abbess.
British Dictionary definitions for abbess


the female superior of a convent
Word Origin
C13: from Old French, from Church Latin abbātissa
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for abbess

c.1300, abbese, from Old French abbesse, from Late Latin abbatissa, fem. of abbas (see abbot). Replaced earlier abbotess.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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