"female singer of popular songs," 1866, from French chanteuse (16c.), fem. agent noun of chanter "to sing" (from PIE root *kan- "to sing"). In Old French, the word was chanteresse, which gave Middle English chaunteresse "nun who sings or leads the singing" (late 14c.). Milton has chauntress, but the word seems to have gone extinct before the 19c. reborrowing.