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

  • noun The part of a house reserved for the women of the household in South Asia.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In India, that part of the house in which the females of a family are secluded; an East Indian harem.

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

  • noun India The part of a dwelling appropriated to women.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A harem on the Indian subcontinent, a part of the house reserved for high-caste women; a system of segregating women into harems.
  • noun An effeminate or crossdressing male in northern India or Pakistan.


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

[Hindi zenāna, from Persian, from zan, woman; see gwen- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Persian/Urdu زنانه (zanānah), from زن (zan) ‘woman’.


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  • "The word zenana," replied Mrs. Thurston, "strictly means women's apartment, but as it is generally used by us it means the houses of the high caste gentlemen, where their wives live in great seclusion.

    A Missionary Twig

  • The little jade dog on my shelf stared at me with bulging eyes, reminding me that betrayal from within the zenana was the least of my fears.

    Kushiel's Avatar

  • It was clear that the native tutors had no control whatever over their illustrious pupil, and every creature in and about the zenana was his submissive slave, so that Gerrard became seriously exercised as to the development of his character.

    The Path to Honour

  • There the women are free to work and hold positions of power, while the men are kept sequestered in prisons called mardanas this is a play on words: in Hossain's time, women were relinquished to a part of the house called zenana, and mard is the Urdu word for man.

    NPR Topics: News

  • He was not injured badly, as such things went in the zenana, meaning he would not die of it.

    Kushiel's Avatar

  • But tell me, how you managed to put the men of your country into the zenana.

    The Sultana's Dream

  • 'It is not likely that they would surrender their free and open air life of their own accord and confine themselves within the four walls of the zenana!

    The Sultana's Dream

  • In Mughal India, she was considered past the age of desirability—there were creatures in the zenana who had been banished to its farthest quarters because of this, no longer presented to her Bapa as choices for a night.

    Shadow Princess

  • Man Singh, also a vassal to the Mughal Empire, had nonetheless managed to live with the extravagance of a king, with sixteen hundred wives populating his zenana, a veritable swarm of children, so many sons he could not remember all of their names.

    Shadow Princess

  • She did not need to ask anymore, of herself or of Najabat, if he would find her desirable and attractive—she knew he would because he had defied all the rules of the zenana to find his way here.

    Shadow Princess


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  • In parts of South Asia, the part of a house or living complex where the women of the family live.

    April 15, 2009

  • The pecking order in a harem according to NPR's Says You!.

    December 28, 2019

  • Highest up the zenana gets the banana.

    December 29, 2019