AskDefine | Define dungeon

Dictionary Definition



1 the main tower within the walls of a medieval castle or fortress [syn: keep, donjon]
2 a dark cell (usually underground) where prisoners can be confined

User Contributed Dictionary



From donjon.


  • a UK /ˈdʌn.dʒən/ /"dVn.dZ@n/


  1. originally obsolete The main tower of a motte or castle; a keep or donjon.
  2. An underground prison or vault, typically built underneath a castle.


the main tower of a motte or castle; a keep or donjon
An underground prison or vault

Extensive Definition

This is about European castles. For other uses see Dungeon (disambiguation)
A dungeon is a place where prisoners are kept. In the past, it used to double as the keep.


The word dungeon was derived from the Old French donjon, which came from the Latin dominus, "lord".
However, in French the term donjon means "keep" (a form of tower), and the term oubliette or cachot (a form of prison) is a more appropriate translation of the English "dungeon". This word is a false friend.


In its original medieval usage, the dungeon was the keep, the main tower of a castle which formed the final defensive position the garrison could retreat to when outer fortifications were overcome. It was also a safe, if not comfortable, place to keep prisoners. Once more luxurious housing for the lord of the castle was constructed, the dungeon was used mainly for this purpose. Its meaning has evolved over time to also mean an underground prison or burial vault, typically built underneath a castle.
In 1613, Anton Praetorius described the terrible situation of the prisoners in the dungeons in his book Gründlicher Bericht über Zauberei und Zauberer (Thorough Report about Wizardry and Wizards).


Although many real dungeons are simply a single plain room with a heavy door or with access only from a hatchway or trapdoor in the floor of the room above, the use of dungeons for torture, along with their association to common human fears of being trapped underground, have made dungeons a powerful metaphor in a variety of contexts.

Modern Criminal Individuals who have built dungeons:

See also

dungeon in Bulgarian: Донжон
dungeon in Danish: Donjon
dungeon in German: Kerker
dungeon in Spanish: Mazmorra
dungeon in French: Oubliette
dungeon in Korean: 던전
dungeon in Japanese: ダンジョン
dungeon in Polish: Lochy
dungeon in Portuguese: Masmorra
dungeon in Portuguese: Torre de menagem
dungeon in Russian: Донжон
dungeon in Serbian: Донжон кула

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

POW camp, bastille, black hole, borstal, borstal institution, bridewell, brig, cell, concentration camp, condemned cell, death cell, death house, death row, detention camp, donjon, federal prison, forced-labor camp, gaol, guardhouse, house of correction, house of detention, industrial school, internment camp, jail, jailhouse, keep, labor camp, lockup, maximum-security prison, minimum-security prison, oubliette, pen, penal colony, penal institution, penal settlement, penitentiary, prison, prison camp, prisonhouse, reform school, reformatory, sponging house, state prison, stockade, stronghold, the hole, tollbooth, training school, vault
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