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From Middle English fastnesse, festnesse (firmness; certainty; stronghold; firmament), from Old English fæstnes, fæstnis (firmness; stronghold; firmament), equivalent to fast +‎ -ness.


  • IPA(key): /ˈfæstnəs/, [ˈfæsnəs]
  • (trap–bath split) IPA(key): /ˈfɑːstnəs/, [ˈfɑːsnəs]
  • (file)


fastness (countable and uncountable, plural fastnesses)

  1. A secure or fortified place; a stronghold, a fortress.
    • 1611, John Speed, The History of Great Britaine under the Conquests of the Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans, London, Book 9, Chapter 9, p. 528,[1]
      [...] if the Welsh compelled by famine ventred out of their strengthes or fastnesses, in or about Snowdon, the Garrison Souldiers of Gannocke were ready to intercept and kill them [...]
    • 1803, John Browne Cutting, “A Succinct History of Jamaica” in Robert Charles Dallas, The History of the Maroons, London: Longman and Rees, Volume 1, p. xxxviii,[2]
      [...] the slaves that yet remained in the fastnesses of Jamaica, attached to the Spanish, and hostile to the English settlers, continued to be troublesome, and at times formidable.
    • 1912 February–July, Edgar Rice Burroughs, “Under the Moons of Mars”, in The All-Story, New York, N.Y.: Frank A. Munsey Co., OCLC 17392886; republished as “Child-raising on Mars”, in A Princess of Mars, Chicago, Ill.: A[lexander] C[aldwell] McClurg & Co., 1917, OCLC 419578288, page 69:
      The incubators are built in remote fastnesses, where there is little or no likelihood of their being discovered by other tribes.
    • 1919, W[illiam] Somerset Maugham, chapter IV, in The Moon and Sixpence. A Novel, London: William Heinemann, OCLC 563525353; The Moon and Sixpence, 1st American edition, [New York, N.Y.]: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers by arrangement with George H. Doran Company, 1919, OCLC 365836, page 26:
      When she came to know writers it was like adventuring upon a stage which till then she had known only from the other side of the footlights. She saw them dramatically, and really seemed herself to live a larger life because she entertained them and visited them in their fastnesses.
  2. The state of being fast.
    1. Firmness, security.
    2. Rapidity, swiftness.
  3. The ability of a dye to withstand fading.

Derived terms[edit]