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Definition: a senior woman in age or ranking; of society, a profession, class or group.

Pronunciation: doi-en


Doyenne originates in France, with doyenne being the feminine form of doyen.  The first known use to the word is estimated to be during the years of 1897-1905. The plural Form is doyennes ( pronounced doi-enz)

Why this word?

Strangely enough, I usually see the word doyenne in printed materials such as books and magazines but rarely hear the word doyenne used in daily conversations. During those rare instances when doyenne is used during a conversation, it is usually uttered in a hushed, respectful tone by someone who is discussing a very accomplished woman who has somehow gracefully managed to escape being categorized as obsolete and over-the-hill due to her advanced age or lengthy career.

Doyenne is a noble word because it grandly communicates that a particular woman has become more valuable and appreciated because of her age.

In a loving tribute posted on her website, Deborah Norville described her grandmother as a “doyenne of all the ladies groups in her rural Southern town.”

How to use the word doyenne in a sentence:

Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, is the doyenne of high fashion.


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Written by Rachelle Nones

Rachelle Nones holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and has completed coursework in linguistics, English and American literature, and the history of the English language. The dictionary is one of her favorite books! Follow her on Twitter: @rachellenones


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