Definitions

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

  • n. A woman regarded as being disreputable, especially a prostitute.
  • n. Scots A young woman.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A woman; a young or unmarried woman; a girl.
  • n. A low woman; a wench; a slut.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A woman; a female person, considered without regard to qualities or position: hence generally in a slighting use.

Etymologies

Middle English quene, from Old English cwene, woman; see gwen- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English quene ("young, robust woman"), from Old English cwene ("woman, female serf"), from Proto-Germanic *kwenōn (“woman”), from Proto-Indo-European *gʷḗn (“woman”). Cognate with Dutch kween ("a barren woman, a barren cow"), Low German quene ("barren cow, heifer"), German dialectal Kan, Chan ("woman, wife"), Swedish kvinna ("woman"), Icelandic kona ("woman"), Gothic 𐌵𐌹𐌽𐍉 (qino, "female, woman"), 𐌵𐌴𐌽𐍃 (qens, "wife"). More at queen. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • According to the Miriam Webster dictionary, quean (pronounced kwen) is from the Old English cwene meaning woman or queen.

    The Sable Quean (Redwall) by Brian Jacques: Book summary

  • A woman with a shape and face like Lakshmibai's hadn't let it go to waste in four years 'widowhood (after being married to some prancing old quean, too), not with the stallions of her palace guard available at the crook of her little finger.

    Fiancée

  • And I have seen the life of Colin Ironfist well epitomized in a smaller compass than is here employed to show this quean well spanked.

    Wheels always with us

  • I must get rid of this quean as fast as I can; and I must see her safe.

    The Fair Maid of Perth

  • “You may give quarters to such cattle if you like it yourself, Harry Wynd; but the same house shall not quarter that trumpery quean and me, and of that you may assure yourself.”

    The Fair Maid of Perth

  • He began, however, with considerable austerity of manner. — “And how now, saucy quean!” said the medical man of office; “what have you to say why I should not order you to be ducked in the loch, for lifting your hand to the man in my presence?”

    The Abbot

  • “Bloodshed and murder!” exclaimed the Lady, “what does the quean mean? — if you speak not plain out, you shall have something you will scarce be thankful for.”

    The Abbot

  • “And I promise you,” said the laundress, “my young master will stick nothing to call an honest woman slut and quean, if there be but a speck of soot upon his band-collar.”

    The Abbot

  • “Did I know Kate Happer?” replied the widow; “as well as the beggar knows his dish — a canty quean was Kate, and a special cummer of my ain maybe twenty years syne.”

    The Monastery

  • Ye maun leave this quean — the like of her is ower light company for you.

    Redgauntlet

Comments

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  • "...
    I'll be reveng'd you saucy Quean
    (Replys the disapointed Dean)
    I'll so describe your dressing room
    The very Irish shall not come.
    ..."

    -Lady Montague, The Reasons that Induced Dr S to Write a Poem Call'd the Lady's Dressing Room

    September 20, 2009

  • "Here's to the maiden of bashful fifteen;
    Here's to the widow of fifty;
    Here's to the flaunting, extravagant quean;
    And here's to the housewife that's thrifty.
    Let the toast pass - drink to the lass,
    I warrant she'll prove an excuse for the glass.
    Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) - The School for Scandal, III, iii, Song

    September 20, 2009

  • Albuquer-quean

    June 29, 2009

  • There is an Australian town called Queanbeyan. I am not familiar with the origin of the name or its components.

    June 29, 2009

  • This is an interesting word. I also encountered it in The Nutmeg of Consolation, but it was used in reference to a man: "So Joe served her out with his fishgig. It came natural to him, being a quean, as they say, and carpenter's mate." According to the online dictionaries I consulted, "quean" was used in the early 20th century to refer to an effeminate homosexual, but "cot quean" was used in Shakespeare's time to refer, in addition, to any man who does "women's work--housework."

    June 29, 2009

  • "If only there were a good-humored girl among these trumpery queans... but they seem a hard-faced set entirely..."
    --Patrick O'Brian, Treason's Harbour, 78

    February 15, 2008