Student Dictionary

One entry found for dungeon.
Main Entry: dun·geon
Pronunciation: primarystressdschwan-jschwan
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English donjon "tower in a castle, dungeon," from early French donjon "castle tower" --related to DONJON
2 : a dark usually underground prison
Word History The English words for two different parts of a castle both come from the same source. The word dungeon, meaning "a dark usually underground prison," comes from the early French word donjon. This French word also gives us our English word donjon, meaning "an inner tower in a castle." Dungeon was first used in English in the 14th century for the strong tower in the protected inner part of the castle. Residents and defenders could retreat to this tower if attackers managed to get inside the castle walls. Part of the tower usually included an underground room. This dark, damp dungeon room was usually used as a cell for prisoners. Throughout its history, the word dungeon has had many spellings. Sometimes it was spelled donjon like the early French word it comes from, and sometimes in other ways. In time the spelling donjon came to be used mostly for the castle tower. The spelling dungeon came to be used mostly for the underground room or prison.

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