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From Middle English dungeon, dungeoun, dungun ‎(castle keep, prison cell below the castle, dungeon), from Old French donjon ‎(castle keep), from Frankish *dungjo ‎(prison, dungeon, underground cellar), from Proto-Germanic *dungijǭ ‎(enclosed space, vault, bower, treasury), from Proto-Germanic *dungaz, *dungō ‎(dung, manure), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰengʰ- ‎(to cover). Cognate with Old English dung ‎(prison, dungeon), Old Saxon dung ‎(underground cellar), Old High German tung ("underground cellar"; > German Tunk ‎(manure or soil covered basement, underground weaving workshop)), Old Norse dyngja ("a detached apartment, a lady's bower"; > Icelandic dyngja ‎(chamber)). More at dung.

The game term has been popularized by Dungeons & Dragons.



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dungeon ‎(plural dungeons)

  1. An underground prison or vault, typically built underneath a castle.
    • Macaulay
      Year after year he lay patiently in a dungeon.
  2. (obsolete) The main tower of a motte or castle; a keep or donjon.
  3. (games) An area inhabited by enemies, containing story objectives, treasure and bosses.


Derived terms[edit]


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dungeon ‎(third-person singular simple present dungeons, present participle dungeoning, simple past and past participle dungeoned)

  1. (transitive) To imprison in a dungeon.
    • 1830, William Cobbett, History of the Regency and Reign of King George the Fourth
      Of every act of severity, of every bold violation of the constitution, of every bill for dungeoning and gagging the people, of every tax, of every loan, of all that set frugality at defiance, and that mocked at mercy, these men had been either the authors or the most strenuous supporters []