Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A woman employed to educate and train the children of a private household.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A woman paid to educate children in their own home.
  • v. To work as governess; to educate children in their own home.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A female governor; a woman invested with authority to control and direct; especially, one intrusted with the care and instruction of children, -- usually in their homes.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A woman invested with authority to control and direct; a female ruler: also used figuratively.
  • n. Specifically A woman who has the care of instructing and directing children; an instructress: generally applied to one who teaches children in their own homes.
  • To play the governess; act as governess: as, to go out governessing.
  • To control or direct as a governess.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a woman entrusted with the care and supervision of a child (especially in a private home)

Etymologies

Middle English governesse, short for governouresse, from Old French governeresse, feminine of governeor, governor, from Latin gubernātor; see gubernatorial.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • The word governess appealed to him; it meant that she had to do with wealthy people, at least.

    Jane Cable

  • "A governess is a very nice thing," said the doctor, taking off his hat and leaning back against the iron railing, – "if she knows properly how to set people to play."

    Daisy

  • Surprises are tucked here and there on the half-acre property - a treehouse enveloped by a Norway spruce, for example, and a weeping katsura tree that arches over a sandstone block she calls her governess bench.

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  • The governess was a tightly corseted young woman of unremarkable appearance.

    The Dressmaker

  • Crime writers even as recently as the 1980's still believe that Samuel Kent father of Saville and the governess were the real killers of the child.

    Archive 2009-11-01

  • The prosecutor called a governess who testified that as a child of five, Marguerite often lied.

    On the Sometimes Fatal Consequences of Entering Into Madame Steinheil's Bedchamber

  • The nurse in charge was in uniform, the governess was a much put-upon person.

    The Titan

  • A governess might be a servant, but she was a privileged one.

    Sharpe's Escape

  • The top floor was occupied by the nanny, a lodger, and a woman who ... well, the constable supposed she'd be called a governess although the family didn't call her that.

    A Traitor to Memory

  • He, his wife and their governess were the only English people I met; the only people, indeed, with whom I did more than exchange bare civilities.

    The Complete Stories

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