late 14c., "woman of royal or noble birth; daughter or wife of a ruler or prince; female ruler," a native formation; in some later instances from Old French princesse, fem. of prince (see prince). Compare Medieval Latin principissa, Italian principessa.
As a colloquial form of address to a woman or girl, it is recorded by 1924 (as a term of address to a lover, early 15c.). Princesse lointaine "ideal but unattainable woman" (literally "distant princess") is from the play by Rostand (1895) based on troubadour themes.