AskDefine | Define madam

Dictionary Definition



1 a woman of refinement; "a chauffeur opened the door of the limousine for the grand lady" [syn: dame, ma'am, lady, gentlewoman]
2 a woman who runs a house of prostitution [syn: brothel keeper]

User Contributed Dictionary



From madame, from ma ‘my’ + dame ‘lady’, from post-classical Latin mea domina.


  1. A polite form of address for a woman or lady.
    Mrs Grey wondered if the outfit she was trying on made her look fat. The sales assistant just said, “It suits you madam”.
    Later, Mrs Grey was sitting in her favourite tea shop. “Would madam like the usual cream cakes and patisserie with her tea?” the waitress asked.
  2. The mistress of a household.
  3. A conceited or quarrelsome girl.
    ''Selina kept pushing and shoving during musical chairs. The nursery school teacher said she was a bad-tempered little madam.
  4. A woman who runs a brothel. Senator Vitter
    Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, whose phone number is in the little black books of more than one madam, has issued a statement saying that God has forgiven him.
    When she was getting too old to work as a prostitute she became a madam.


polite term of address to a woman
woman who manages a brothel

Related terms

Extensive Definition

Madam, ma'am, or Mme is a title for a woman. It is derived from the French madame (see different meanings of madame here), the equivalent of Mrs. or Ms., and literally signifying "my lady." The plural of madam in this sense is mesdames. The French madame is in turn derived from the ancient Latin mea domina meaning honored mistress of the home (domus). "Madam" may also refer to a woman who runs a brothel.

Use as a form of address

Madam is used in direct address, without the woman's name, for example when addressed by a stranger: May I help you, madam? In the United States, "Ma'am" is usually used. The male equivalent is sir. Spelling of the word is often quarreled; some argue it is spelled "M'am" while it is widely accepted the correct form is "Ma'am".

Formal address and protocol

In English-speaking countries, the wife of a foreign dignitary is called Madame (note final 'e') in direct address and formal correspondence, rather than the equivalent word in the person's native language (Señora, Frau etc.).
After addressing her as "Your Majesty," it is proper to address The Queen of the United Kingdom as "Ma'am" for the remainder of the conversation, with the pronunciation as in "ham" and not as in "farm".
Usage of "Ma'am" is common in the Southern United States. The Ascension Parish, Louisiana Public School System requires elementary school students to address female teachers as "Ma'am" or "Mrs./Ms./Miss (Family name)".

In composed titles

Madam is also used as the equivalent of Mister (Mr) in composed titles, such as Madam Justice, Madam Speaker, Madam President. Most of these titles are usually used only in direct address, without the woman's last name: one would say President Smith, not Madam President Smith, even if one would address her to her face as Madam President.
However, the title Madam Justice is used in third-person reference: Madam Justice Louise Arbour, Madam Justice Arbour.
In the United States Supreme Court, rather than adopting the title Madam Justice for female justices, the title Mr Justice was replaced simply by Justice. Likewise, female presidents of the Republic of Ireland have preferred to be addressed simply as President in direct address, rather than Madam President. Female judges of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales are titled Mrs Justice rather than Madam Justice, regardless of marital status. However, District Judges are referred to as either Madam or Ma'am.

Military and police use

"Ma'am" is commonly used to address female officers of the rank of Inspector and above in British police forces and female Commissioned Officers and Warrant Officers in the British Armed Forces.
In the United States Armed Forces, "ma'am" is used to address female commissioned officers and Warrant Officers. U.S. Marine recruits and U.S. Air Force trainees also address female non-commissioned officers as "ma'am."

Ancien régime France

Under the Ancien régime, Madame was the wife of Monsieur, the eldest of the King's brothers.

For other royal French styles

See also


madam in French: Madame
madam in Russian: Мадам

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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