The Middle English word is apparently a merger of Old French donjon (“castle keep”) and Old English dung (“a subterranean chamber; a prison; dungeon”), which supplied the current sense of the word. Old French donjon may itself be a conflation of Vulgar Latin *domnione (from Late Latin *dominiōnem, from Latin dominium (“lordship; ownership”)) and Frankish *dungjo (“prison, dungeon, underground cellar”). Compare Middle English dung, dunge, dong, donge (“pit of hell; abyss”)
Both the Frankish and Old English words derive from Proto-Germanic *dungijǭ (“an enclosed space; a vault; bower; treasury”), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰengʰ- (“to cover”), and are related to Old Saxon dung (“underground cellar”), Middle Dutch donc (“underground basement”), Old High German tung (“underground cellar; an underground chamber or apartment for overwintering”) (whence German Tunk (“manure or soil covered basement, underground weaving workshop”)), Old Norse dyngja (“a detached apartment, a lady's bower”); whence Icelandic dyngja (“chamber”)). See also dung, dingle.
The game term has been popularized by Dungeons & Dragons.
dungeon (plural dungeons)
- An underground prison or vault, typically built underneath a castle.
- (obsolete) The main tower of a motte or castle; a keep or donjon.
- (obsolete) A shrewd person.
- (games) An area inhabited by enemies, containing story objectives, treasure and bosses.
- (BDSM) A room dedicated to sadomasochistic sexual activity.
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
- (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 […]