early 13c., damisele, "young, unmarried woman," especially a maiden of gentle birth, also "maid in waiting, handmaiden assisting a lady," from Anglo-French damaisele and Old French dameisele "woman of noble birth" (Modern French demoiselle "young lady"), modified (by association with dame) from earlier donsele, from Gallo-Roman *domnicella, diminutive of Latin domina "lady" (see dame). Archaic until revived by romantic poets, along with 16c.-17c. variant form damozel (which was used by Spenser). Damsel-fly for "dragon-fly" is by 1815, from a sense in French demoiselle.
updated on December 06, 2018