American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. The superior of a convent.
- n. Used as a title for such a person.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A female superior of a convent of nuns, regularly in the same religious orders in which the monks are governed by an abbot; also, a superior of canonesses. An abbess is, in general, elected by the nuns, and is subject to the bishop of the diocese, by whom she is invested according to a special rite called the benediction of an abbess. She must be at least forty years of age, and must have been for eight years a nun in the same monastery. She has the government of the convent, with the administration of the goods of the community, but cannot, on account of her sex, exercise any of the spiritual functions pertaining to the priesthood. Sometimes civil or feudal rights have been attached to the office of abbess, as also jurisdiction over other subordinate convents.
- n. A title retained in Hanover, Würtemberg, Brunswick, and Schleswig-Holstein by the lady superiors of the Protestant seminaries and sisterhoods to which the property of certain convents was transferred at the Reformation.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. A female superior or governess of a nunnery, or convent of nuns, having the same authority over the nuns which the abbots have over the monks. See abbey.
- n. the superior of a group of nuns
- Middle English abesse, from Old French, from Late Latin abbātissa, from abbās, abbāt-, abbot; see abbot. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“Later in that same article, Coffman notes that the use of fish in a spiritual fast was cause for great culinary creativity in the Medieval kitchen, and a French abbess is credited for the creation of the divine dish which I hesitate to categorize as “fish soup” called bouillabaisse.”
“Moreover, many a time and in many things I observed their customs, for fear of worse, and being asked by the chief of the ladies, her whom they call abbess, if”
“Although the abbess was a person exactly after his own heart, my education as a pensioner devolved much on an excellent old mother who had adopted the tenets of the Jansenists, with perhaps a still further tendency towards the reformed doctrines, than those of Port Royal.”
“The abbess is the only person who knows precisely the location of the service, knowledge which was passed down for one thousand years from abbess to abbess.”
“In this instance the abbess was the head of all; and this accounts for Bede's calling the house a nunnery.”
“The abbess was a baroness _ex officio_, and the revenue at the dissolution of the monasteries was £1084.”
“At Fontevrault (founded 1099) and with the Bridgettines (1346), the abbess was the superior of monks as well as nuns, though with the Gilbertines (1146) it was the prior who ruled over both.”
“At the head of the community is a superior often called the abbess, appointed for life by the chapter, at least outside Italy, for in”
“In European history the abbess is a notable figure.”
“The nuns from the convent were present, down to the most humble lay Sister; but they were under great obligations to her mother, and their abbess was her father's sister.”
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