From late Middle English (1400-1450) bel (“fine”) + dam (“mother”), from Old French bele (“beautiful”) + dame (“woman”).
beldame (plural beldames)
- (obsolete) A grandmother.
- (now archaic) An old woman, particularly an ugly one.
1847, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre:
- ... have a curiosity to hear my fortune told: therefore, Sam, order the beldame forward.
- 1982, TC Boyle, Water Music, Penguin 2006, p. 6:
- Suddenly the beldam shrieks as if she's been stuck with a dagger, long rasping insuck of breath: ‘Eeeeeeeee!’