- queen (n.)
- Old English cwen "queen, female ruler of a state, woman, wife," from Proto-Germanic *kwoeniz (cf. Old Saxon quan "wife," Old Norse kvaen, Gothic quens), ablaut variant of *kwenon (source of quean), from PIE *gwen- "woman, wife" supposedly originally "honored woman" (cf. Greek gyné "a woman, a wife;" Gaelic bean "woman;" Sanskrit janis "a woman," gná "wife of a god, a goddess;" Avestan jainish "wife;" Armenian kin "woman;" Old Church Slavonic zena, Old Prussian genna "woman;" Gothic qino "a woman, wife; qéns "a queen").
The original sense seems to have been "wife," specialized by Old English to "wife of a king." In Old Norse, still mostly of a wife generally, e.g. kvan-fang "marriage, taking of a wife," kvanlauss "unmarried, widowed," kvan-riki "the domineering of a wife." English is one of the few Indo-European languages to have a word for "queen" that is not a feminine derivative of a word for "king." The others are Scandinavian: Old Norse drottning, Danish dronning, Swedish drottning "queen," in Old Norse also "mistress," but these also are held to be ultimately from male words, e.g. Old Norse drottinn "master."
Used of chess piece from mid-15c. (as a verb in chess, in reference to a pawn that has reached the last rank, from 1789), of playing card from 1570s. Of bees from c.1600 (until late 17c., they generally were thought to be kings; cf. "Henry V," I.ii); queen bee in a figurative sense is from 1807. Meaning "male homosexual" (especially a feminine and ostentatious one) first certainly recorded 1924; probably here an alteration of quean, which is earlier in this sense. Queen Anne first used 1878 for "style characteristic of the time of Queen Anne of Great Britain and Ireland," who reigned 1702-14. Cincinnati, Ohio, has been the Queen City (of the West) since 1835.