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prima donna

[pree-muh don-uh, prim-uh; Italian pree-mah dawn-nah] /ˌpri mə ˈdɒn ə, ˌprɪm ə; Italian ˈpri mɑ ˈdɔn nɑ/
noun, plural prima donnas Italian, prime donne
[pree-me dawn-ne] /ˈpri mɛ ˈdɔn nɛ/ (Show IPA)
a first or principal female singer of an opera company.
a temperamental person; a person who takes adulation and privileged treatment as a right and reacts with petulance to criticism or inconvenience.
Origin of prima donna
1760-70; < Italian: literally, first lady; see prime, duenna Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for prima-donna
Historical Examples
  • But this friendliness on the part of the prima-donna towards the young baritone's protégée did not last very long.

    Prince Fortunatus William Black
  • Some further random questions about the experiences of a prima-donna elicited the following item.

    Stars of the Opera Mabel Wagnalls
  • One shot on either side, for the sake of a prima-donna, or a bet at the races, or a jostle in the streets.

  • From early childhood she was always singing, always acting, and always intending to be a prima-donna.

    Stars of the Opera Mabel Wagnalls
  • It turned out that the prima-donna had other visitors: a young lady whom he had never seen before and Mr. Percival Miles.

    Prince Fortunatus William Black
  • prima-donna—but don't tell me—let me find it, Miss Worth—I am not sure of its meaning.

    The Red Debt Everett MacDonald
  • "prima-donnaprima-donna," she murmured softly and wonderingly.

    The Red Debt Everett MacDonald
  • The prima-donna and the first tenor simply scouted the idea of applying themselves to learn new rôles—and in a Russian opera!

    The Genius Margaret Horton Potter
  • The young countess now felt herself capable of attempting the part of prima-donna, and she did so on several occasions.

    A Daughter of Eve Honore de Balzac
  • Mr. Zimandy shall be the impresario, and Madam Dormandy the prima-donna; they can pass for husband and wife.

    Manasseh Maurus Jokai
British Dictionary definitions for prima-donna

prima donna

/ˈpriːmə ˈdɒnə/
noun (pl) prima donnas
a female operatic star; diva
(informal) a temperamental person
Word Origin
C19: from Italian: first lady
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 prima-donna

prima donna


1782, "principal female singer in an opera," from Italian prima donna "first lady," from Latin prima, fem. of primus "first" (see prime (adj.)) + domina "lady" (see dame). Meaning "temperamental person" first recorded 1834.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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prima-donna in Culture
prima donna [(pree-muh, prim-uh don-uh)]

A vain and overly sensitive person who is temperamental and difficult to work with: “That Jenkins girl is a good gymnast, but she certainly is a prima donna.” In opera, the prima donna is the principal female soloist. From Italian, meaning “first lady.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for prima-donna

prima donna

noun phrase

A person of great and touchy self-esteem; a person who requires to be the sole focus of adulatory attention and who indulges in temperamental displays

[1936+; fr Italian, literally ''first lady,'' a title for superstar opera singers and the like]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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