From Middle English dungeon, dungeoun, dongoun, dungoun, dungun (“a castle keep" also, "a prison cell below the castle; a dungeon; pit; abyss”).
The Middle English word is apparently a merger of Old French donjon (“castle keep”) and Old English dung (“a subterranean chamber; a prison; dungeon”), which supplied the current sense of the word. Old French donjon may itself be a conflation of Vulgar Latin *domnione (from Late Latin *dominiōnem, from Latin dominium (“lordship; ownership”)) and Frankish *dungjo (“prison, dungeon, underground cellar”). Compare Middle English dung, dunge, dong, donge (“pit of hell; abyss”)
Both the Frankish and Old English words derive from Proto-Germanic *dungijǭ (“an enclosed space; a vault; bower; treasury”), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰengʰ- (“to cover”), and are related to Old Saxon dung (“underground cellar”), Middle Dutch donc (“underground basement”), Old High German tung (“underground cellar; an underground chamber or apartment for overwintering”) (whence German Tunk (“manure or soil covered basement, underground weaving workshop”)), Old Norse dyngja (“a detached apartment, a lady's bower”) (whence Icelandic dyngja (“chamber”)). See also dung, dingle.
The game term has been popularized by Dungeons & Dragons.
- An underground prison or vault, typically built underneath a castle.
- (obsolete) The main tower of a motte or castle; a keep or donjon.
- (games) An area inhabited by enemies, containing story objectives, treasure and bosses.
- (BDSM) A room dedicated to sadomasochistic sexual activity.