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Early 14 c., from Old French forteresce, forteresse, forterece (strong place, fortification) [from 12th c.], variant of fortelesse, from Medieval Latin fortalitia, from Latin fortis (strong) (see fort) +‎ -itia, added to adjectives to form nouns of quality or condition. French -ess, from Latin -itia is also in words such as duress, largesse and riches. For change of medial -l- to -r- in Old French, compare orne (elm) from ulmus; chartre from cartula and chapitre from capitulum.



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fortress (plural fortresses)

  1. A fortified place; a large and permanent fortification, sometimes including a town; for example a fort, a castle; a stronghold; a place of defense or security.
    • 1981, William Irwin Thompson, The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture, London: Rider/Hutchinson & Co., page 160:
      Like the Mesolithic age of 10,000-8000 B.C., the period 6000-4000 B.C. seems to be one of the fall of fortresses and the rise of pastoral nomadism.
  2. (chess) A position that, if obtained by the weaker side, will prevent penetration by the opposing side, generally achieving a draw.



See also[edit]


fortress (third-person singular simple present fortresses, present participle fortressing, simple past and past participle fortressed)

  1. (transitive) To furnish with a fortress or with fortresses; to guard, to fortify.