from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The superior of a convent.
  • noun Used as a title for such a person.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun 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.
  • noun 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.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun 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.

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

  • noun the superior of a group of nuns


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

[Middle English abesse, from Old French, from Late Latin abbātissa, from abbās, abbāt-, abbot; see abbot.]


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word abbess.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.