AskDefine | Define duenna

Dictionary Definition

duenna n : a woman chaperon

User Contributed Dictionary



From duenna or dueña, from donna, from domina .


  1. a chaperon of a young lady], usually an older woman.
  2. a governess or nanny.

Extensive Definition

For other uses, see Chaperone, a disambiguation page.
A chaperone (or occasionally chaperon) is an adult who accompanies or supervises one or more young, unmarried men or women during social occasions, usually with the specific intent of preventing inappropriate social or sexual interactions or illegal behavior (e.g., underage drinking or illegal drug use). The chaperone is typically accountable to a third party, usually the parents of one of the accompanied young people.
The word derives figuratively from the French word chaperon, meaning "hood", and later a kind of hat. This is either from this sense or from falconry, where the same word meant the hood placed over the head of a bird of prey to stop its desire to fly.
Traditionally, a chaperone was an older married or widowed woman accompanying a young woman when men would be present. Her presence was a guarantee of the virtue of the young woman in question. Female chaperones were also called dueñas, a Spanish word. Chaperones for young men were not commonly employed in Western society until the latter half of the 20th century.
Chaperones may be resisted and resented by the young people being supervised. The practice of one-on-one chaperones for social occasions has largely fallen out of use in Western society, though the term is often applied to parents and teachers who supervise school dances.
The concept of a chaperone is also used in variation. For example, a chaperone might be an expert in a given activity who takes a group and accompanies them during outside activities to provide physical support, advice and emergency attention if necessary. Sometimes the term is applied to people who are essentially tour guides (as were the bear-leaders of the Grand Tour in previous times). In addition, the term is used as a verb similar to "guide" (eg. "I'll chaperone you around the city and show you all the best places.")

In culture

In drama, probably the best known example of a plot revolving around the need for, and lack of, a chaperone is Brandon Thomas's farce Charley's Aunt (1892).
The chaperone is spoofed in the 2006 musical The Drowsy Chaperone.

See also

  • Women and Islam for a discussion of the need for an unmarriageable male relative (called a mahram) to accompany women
  • Chaperone (clinical), a person whose has a role to witness and safeguard both a patient and a medical practitioner
duenna in German: Anstandsdame

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abigail, amah, au pair girl, ayah, betweenmaid, biddy, bodyguard, cavalier, chambermaid, chaperon, companion, conductor, convoy, cook, dame, educatress, escort, esquire, fellow traveler, femme de chambre, fille de chambre, gentlewoman, girl, governess, guard, handmaid, handmaiden, hired girl, housemaid, instructress, kitchenmaid, lady-help, lady-in-waiting, live-in maid, live-out maid, maid, maidservant, mistress, nursemaid, parlormaid, safe-conduct, schooldame, schoolmarm, schoolmistress, scullery maid, servant girl, servitress, shepherd, soubrette, squire, swain, tutoress, tweeny, upstairs maid, usher, waiting maid, wench
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