noun1 : legal possession of land as one’s own 2 a : the land attached to a mansion b : landed property : estate c : region, territory 3 : realm, domain
Lewis and Clark were commissioned to explore the vast demesne of forests and plains that the United States acquired in the Louisiana Purchase.
“Just as no monarch can ever quite control her entire demesne, no sister can ever quite neutralize the mischief of younger brothers.” — Sebastian Smee, Boston Globe, February 4, 2014
Did you know?
Why isn’t “demesne” pronounced the way it’s spelled? Our word actually began as “demayn” or “demeyn” in the 14th century, when it was borrowed from Anglo-French property law. At that time, the Anglo-French form was “demeine.” Later, the Anglo-French spelling changed to “demesne,” perhaps by association with another term from Anglo-French property law: “mesne,” meaning “intermediate.” (“Mesne” has entered English as a legal term as well.) According to rules of French pronunciation, the “s” was silent and the vowel was long. English speakers eventually followed suit, adopting the “demesne” spelling. Our word “domain” (which overlaps with the meaning of “demesne” in some applications) also comes from Anglo-French “demeine.”