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From Anglo-Norman pucele, Middle French pucele, perhaps from a Late Latin *pullicella, but the further etymology is disputed.



pucelle (plural pucelles)

  1. (archaic) A girl, a maiden; a virgin (often with reference to Joan of Arc).
    • 1485 July 31, Thomas Malory, “(please specify the chapter)”, in [Le Morte Darthur], (please specify the book number), [London]: [] [by William Caxton], OCLC 71490786; republished as H[einrich] Oskar Sommer, editor, Le Morte Darthur [], London: Published by David Nutt, [], 1889, OCLC 890162034:
      , Book VII, Ch.xij:
      ‘Be ye a pusell or a wyff?’ ‘Sir,’ she seyde, ‘I am a clene maydyn.’
    • (Can we date this quote?) Ben Jonson
      Lady or pucelle, that wears mask or fan.
    • 1976, Robert Nye, Falstaff:
      Seven weeks before, Joan of Arc had ridden into Orleans. She was at the height of her strange career.…‘Maid or Witch, Pucelle or Puzzell – she is very hard to understand.’
  2. (obsolete) A prostitute, a slut.




Middle French pucelle < Old French pucele, first attested in the 10th century as pulcella, from Vulgar Latin *pūllicella, of disputed origin. Possibly a diminutive of Latin pullus (young of animals, chick), or pullus as a contraction of *purulus, from purus (pure). Alternatively from Latin puella (girl) through a Vulgar Latin root *puellicella.


  • IPA(key): /pysɛl/
  • (file)


pucelle f (plural pucelles, masculine puceau)

  1. a maiden; a virgin
    elle n'est plus pucelle: she's no longer a virgin.

Derived terms[edit]

  • la Pucelle d'Orléans: the Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc

Further reading[edit]