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[guhv-er-nis] /ˈgʌv ər nɪs/
a woman who is employed to take charge of a child's upbringing, education, etc.
Archaic. a woman who is a ruler or governor.
Origin of governess
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English governeress < Old French gouverneresse, feminine of gouverneur governor; see -ess
Related forms
governessy, adjective
subgoverness, noun
undergoverness, noun
Usage note
See -ess. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for governess
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The latter had surprised her husband and the Irish governess, tête-à-tête in the lonely pavilion, late in the evening.

    The Key to the Bront Works John Malham-Dembleby
  • In the first place, I could not talk about it with my governess, as she would not discuss the piece at all.

    My Double Life Sarah Bernhardt
  • Just now he was at open war with his two younger sisters and Miss Mack, the governess, who had gone indoors to escape him.

    Johnny Ludlow, Third Series Mrs. Henry Wood
  • Every morning I went to the Conservatoire with my governess.

    My Double Life Sarah Bernhardt
  • Effie kept her promise, and went as governess to little Freda Harvey for a time, but only for a time.

British Dictionary definitions for governess


a woman teacher employed in a private household to teach and train the children
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for governess

mid-15c., "female ruler," shortening of governouresse "a woman who rules" (late 14c.), from Old French governeresse "female ruler or administrator" (see governor + -ess); in the sense of "a female teacher in a private home" it is attested from 1712.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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