prima donna (n.)
also primadonna, 1782, "principal female singer in an opera," from Italian prima donna "first lady," from Latin prima, fem. of primus "first" (see prime (adj.)) + domina "lady" (see dame). Extended meaning "temperamental person" is attested by 1834.
The erroneous form premadonna (or pre-madonna) is attested from at least 1950s and increasingly after 1990s. Not to be confused with the adjective pre-Madonna (by 1991), in reference to popular music before the rise to stardom of Madonna (Madonna Louise Ciccone), c. 1985.
updated on November 23, 2020