What Does Prima Donna Mean?

Discover the origins and modern-day connotations of the term ‘prima donna’ and learn about examples of prima donna behavior in various fields. Explore case studies and statistics on dealing with challenging personalities.


Prima donna is a term that has been used for centuries to describe a leading female opera singer. However, over time, its meaning has evolved to denote someone who is overly demanding, temperamental, or difficult to work with. In this article, we will explore the origins of the term, its modern-day connotations, and examples of prima donna behavior in various fields.

Origins of the Term

The term ‘prima donna’ literally means ‘first lady’ in Italian and was originally used to refer to the leading female singer in an opera production. These singers were often revered for their exceptional talent and were given top billing in performances.

Modern-Day Connotations

Today, the term prima donna has taken on a negative connotation, describing someone who exhibits diva-like behavior. This can include being demanding, self-centered, and difficult to please. In a professional setting, a prima donna is often seen as someone who puts their own needs above those of the team or organization.

Examples of Prima Donna Behavior

One famous example of prima donna behavior in the music industry is Mariah Carey, known for her extravagant demands and temperamental attitude. In the world of sports, tennis player John McEnroe became infamous for his outbursts and confrontational behavior on the court.

  • Constantly demanding special treatment
  • Refusing to collaborate with others
  • Throwing tantrums when things don’t go their way
  • Believing they are above following rules or guidelines

Case Studies

An interesting case study of prima donna behavior can be seen in the world of fashion. Designer Christian Dior was known for his perfectionism and demanding nature, often causing tension within his team. While his exacting standards led to great success, they also alienated many of his colleagues.


According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 70% of employees have worked with a prima donna at some point in their careers. This behavior can lead to decreased morale, reduced productivity, and increased turnover rates within organizations.


While the term prima donna may have originated in the world of opera, its modern-day connotations have come to symbolize a certain type of difficult personality. By recognizing and addressing prima donna behavior in the workplace, organizations can foster a more collaborative and harmonious environment for all employees.

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