Definition for DAM'SEL

DAM'SEL, n. [s as z. Fr. damoiselle and demoiselle, a gentlewoman, and damoiseau, a spark or beau; Norm. damoisells, or demicelles, nobles, sons of kings, princes, knights, lords, ladies of quality, and damoyseles, damsels, female infants; Sp. damisola, a young gentlewoman, any girl not of the lower class. The Arm. ma-mesell, va-mesell, or man-mesell, a woman or madam, seems to indicate that the first syllable is a prefix, and mesell, Eng. miss, a distinct word. But damoiselle, Norm. demicelle, from which we have damsel, is doubtless from the Italian damigella, a diminutive formed from dama, like the L. domicilium, from domus, and penicillus, from the root of penna. The Italian damigello, in the masculine gender, shows the propriety of the ancient application of damsel to males.]

A young woman. Formerly, a young man or woman of noble or genteel extraction; as, Damsel Pepin; Damsel Richard, prince of Wales. It is now used only of young women, and is applied to any class of young unmarried women, unless to the most vulgar, and sometimes to country girls. With her train of damsels she was gone. – Dryden. Then Boaz said, whose damsel is this? – Ruth ii. This word is rarely used in conversation, or even in prose writings of the present day; but it occurs frequently in the Scriptures, and in poetry.

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