Lady

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Portrait of Augusta, Lady Gregory, considered in her day to embody the classical attributes of a lady Lady gregory.jpg
Portrait of Augusta, Lady Gregory, considered in her day to embody the classical attributes of a lady

The word lady is a term of respect for a woman, the equivalent of gentleman. Once used to describe only women of a high social class or status, now it may refer to any adult woman. Informal use of this word is sometimes euphemistic ("lady of the night" for a prostitute ) or, in American slang, condescending (equivalent to "mister").

In modern parlance, a gentleman is any man of good, courteous conduct. Originally, a gentleman was a man of the lowest rank of the English gentry, standing below an esquire and above a yeoman. By definition, this category included the younger sons of the younger sons of peers and the younger sons of baronets, knights, and esquires in perpetual succession, and thus the term captures the common denominator of gentility shared by both constituents of the English aristocracy: the peerage and the gentry. In this sense, it corresponds to the French gentilhomme ("nobleman"), which in Great Britain, has long meant only the peerage. Maurice Keen points to the category of "gentlemen" in this context as thus constituting "the nearest contemporary English equivalent of the noblesse of France". The notion of "gentlemen" as encapsulating the members of the hereditary ruling class was what the rebels under John Ball in the 14th century meant when they repeated:

When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then the gentleman?

Prostitution practice of engaging in sexual relations in exchange for payment

Prostitution is the business or practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for payment. Prostitution is sometimes described as sexual services, commercial sex or, colloquially, hooking. It is sometimes referred to euphemistically as "the world's oldest profession" in the English-speaking world. A person who works in this field is called a prostitute, and is a type of sex worker.

Slang is language of an informal register that members of particular in-groups favor in order to establish group identity, exclude outsiders, or both.

Contents

"Lady" is also a formal title in the United Kingdom. "Lady" is used before the family name of a woman with a title of nobility or honorary title suo jure (in her own right), or the wife of a lord, a baronet, laird, or a knight, and also before the first name of the daughter of a duke, marquess, or earl.

Nobility privileged social class

Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately under royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy. Nobility possesses more acknowledged privileges and higher social status than most other classes in society. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be largely honorary, and vary by country and era. As referred to in the Medieval chivalric motto "noblesse oblige", nobles can also carry a lifelong duty to uphold various social responsibilities, such as honorable behavior, customary service, or leadership positions. Membership in the nobility, including rights and responsibilities, is typically hereditary.

Suo jure is a Latin phrase, used in English to mean "in his/her own right".

Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power over others acting like a master, a chief, or a ruler. The appellation can also denote certain persons who hold a title of the peerage in the United Kingdom, or are entitled to courtesy titles. The collective "Lords" can refer to a group or body of peers.

Etymology

The word comes from Old English hlǣfdige; the first part of the word is a mutated form of hlāf, "loaf, bread", also seen in the corresponding hlāford, "lord". The second part is usually taken to be from the root dig-, "to knead", seen also in dough; the sense development from bread-kneader, or bread-maker, or bread-shaper, to the ordinary meaning, though not clearly to be traced historically, may be illustrated by that of "lord".

Bread Staple food prepared from a dough

Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking. Throughout recorded history it has been a prominent food in large parts of the world and is one of the oldest man-made foods, having been of significant importance since the dawn of agriculture.

Dough paste used in cooking

Dough is a thick, malleable, sometimes elastic, paste made out of any grains, leguminous or chestnut crops. Dough is typically made by mixing flour with a small amount of water and/or other liquid, and sometimes includes flour yeast or other leavening agents as well as other ingredients such as various fats or flavorings.

The primary meaning of "mistress of a household" is now mostly obsolete, save for the term landlady and in set phrases such as "the lady of the house." This meaning is retained in the southern states of the United States. The term is also used in titles such as First Lady and Lady Mayoress, the wives of elected or appointed officials. In many European languages the equivalent term serves as a general form of address equivalent to the English Mrs (French Madame , Spanish Señora, Italian Signora, German Frau, Polish Pani, etc.). In those languages it is correct to address a woman whose name is unknown as Madame, Señora, etc., but in polite English usage "lady" has for centuries only normally been a "term of address" in the plural, [1] which is also the case for "gentleman". The singular vocative use was once common but has become mostly confined to poetry. [1] In some dialects it may still be used to address an unknown woman in a brusque manner, often in an imperative or interrogatory context, analogous to "mister" for an unknown male: e.g., "Hey, lady, you aren't allowed in here!" [2] In this usage, the word "lady" is very seldom capitalized when written. The usual English term for politely addressing a woman is Madam or Ma'am .

First Lady honorary title of the wife of a president or head of state

First Lady is an unofficial title used for the wife of a non-monarchical head of state or chief executive. The term is also used to describe a woman seen to be at the top of her profession or art.

Lady Mayoress is the title traditionally applied to the wife of a Lord Mayor of a major city in the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland, or a capital city of an Australian state. It is not an elected office. Lady is used here as a title of respect.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

John William Waterhouse's The Lady of Shalott , 1888 (Tate Gallery, London) John William Waterhouse - The Lady of Shalott - Google Art Project edit.jpg
John William Waterhouse's The Lady of Shalott , 1888 (Tate Gallery, London)

Usage

In British English, "lady" is often, but not always, simply a courteous synonym for "woman". Public toilets are often distinguished by signs showing simply "Ladies" or "Gentlemen". "Lady" has a formal and respectful quality, being used to describe a woman in old age such as "an old lady" or when speaking about a woman to a child (e.g. "Give the money to the lady.") It is used in the description of the female equivalent of a postman as a post lady. It is also used in such terms as "tea lady" and "sandwich lady" in office blocks. It may be used, however incongruously, in descriptions such as "the cleaning lady" or even "a bag lady" (tramp).

British English is the standard dialect of English language as spoken and written in the United Kingdom. Variations exist in formal, written English in the United Kingdom. For example, the adjective wee is almost exclusively used in parts of Scotland and Ireland, and occasionally Yorkshire, whereas little is predominant elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is a meaningful degree of uniformity in written English within the United Kingdom, and this could be described by the term British English. The forms of spoken English, however, vary considerably more than in most other areas of the world where English is spoken, so a uniform concept of British English is more difficult to apply to the spoken language. According to Tom McArthur in the Oxford Guide to World English, British English shares "all the ambiguities and tensions in the word 'British' and as a result can be used and interpreted in two ways, more broadly or more narrowly, within a range of blurring and ambiguity".

Public toilet A room or building with toilets available for use by the general public

A public toilet is a room or small building with toilets that does not belong to a particular household. Rather, the toilet is available for use by the general public, customers, travellers, employees of a business, school pupils, prisoners etc. Public toilets are commonly separated into male and female facilities, although some are unisex, especially for small or single-occupancy public toilets. Increasingly, public toilets are accessible to people with disabilities. Public toilets are known by many other names depending on the country. Examples are: restroom, bathroom, men's room, women's room in the US, washroom in Canada, and toilets, lavatories, water closet (W.C.), ladies and gents in Europe.

Tramp long-term homeless person

A tramp is a long-term homeless person who travels from place to place as a vagrant, traditionally walking all year round. The word tramp became a common way to refer to such people in 19th-century Britain and America.

The American journalist William Allen White noted one of the difficulties in his 1946 autobiography. He relates that a woman who had paid a fine for prostitution came to his newspaper to protest, not against the fact that her conviction had been reported, but that the newspaper had referred to her as a "woman" rather than a "lady". After the incident, White assured his readers, his papers referred to human females as "women", with the exception of police court characters, who were all "ladies".

William Allen White American newspaper editor and politician

William Allen White was an American newspaper editor, politician, author, and leader of the Progressive movement. Between 1896 and his death, White became a spokesman for middle America.

Justice of the peace judicial officer, of a lower or puisne court, elected or appointed by means of a commission (letters patent) to keep the peace

A justice of the peace (JP) is a judicial officer of a lower or puisne court, elected or appointed by means of a commission to keep the peace. In past centuries the term commissioner of the peace was often used with the same meaning. Depending on the jurisdiction, such justices dispense summary justice or merely deal with local administrative applications in common law jurisdictions. Justices of the peace are appointed or elected from the citizens of the jurisdiction in which they serve, and are usually not required to have any formal legal education in order to qualify for the office. Some jurisdictions have varying forms of training for JPs.

White's anecdote touches on a phenomenon that others have remarked on as well. In the late 19th and early twentieth century, in a difference reflected in the British historian Nancy Mitford's 1954 essay "U vs. non-U" , lower class women strongly preferred to be called "ladies" while women from higher social backgrounds were content to be identified as "women". These social class issues, while no longer as prominent in this century, have imbued some formal uses of "lady" with euphemism (e.g.: "my cleaning lady", or "ladies of the night" for prostitutes). Commenting on the word in 1953, C.S. Lewis wrote that "the guard at Holloway said it was a ladies' prison!"

It remains in use, for example, as a counterpart to "gentleman", in the phrase "ladies and gentlemen", and is generally interchangeable (in a strictly informal sense) with "woman" (as in, "The lady at the store said I could return this item within thirty days"). However, some women, since the rise of second wave feminism, have objected to the term used in contexts such as the last example, arguing that the term sounds patronising and outdated when used in this way; a man in the same context would not necessarily be referred to as a "gentleman". One feminist writer, Robin Lakoff, in her book Language and Woman's Place (1975), notably raised the issue of the ways in which "lady" is not used as the counterpart of "gentleman". It is suggested by academic Elizabeth Reid Boyd that feminist usage of the word "lady" has been reclaimed in the 21st century. [3]

British titles

Formally, "Lady" is the female counterpart to higher ranks in society, from gentlemen, through knights, to lords, and so on. During the Middle Ages, princesses or daughters of the blood royal were usually known by their first names with "Lady" prefixed, e.g. Lady Elizabeth; since Old English and Middle English did not have a female equivalent to princes or earls or other royals or nobles. Aside from the queen, women of royal and noble status simply carried the title of "Lady".

As a title of nobility, the uses of "lady" in Britain are parallel to those of "lord". It is thus a less formal alternative to the full title giving the specific rank, of marchioness, countess, viscountess or baroness, whether as the title of the husband's rank by right or courtesy, or as the lady's title in her own right. A peeress's title is used with the definite article: Lord Morris's wife is "the Lady Morris". A widow's title derived from her husband becomes the dowager, e.g. The Dowager Lady Smith.

The title "Lady" is also used for a woman who is the wife of a Scottish feudal baron or laird, the title "Lady" preceding the name of the barony or lairdship. [4]

In the case of younger sons of a duke or marquess, who have the courtesy title "Lord" prefixed to their given and family name, the wife is known by the husband's given and family name with "Lady" prefixed, e.g. Lady John Smith.

The daughters of dukes, marquesses and earls are by courtesy "ladies"; here, that title is prefixed to the given and family name of the lady, e.g. Lady Jane Smith, and this is preserved if the lady marries a commoner, e.g. Mr John and Lady Jane Smith.

"Lady" is also the customary title of the wife of a baronet or knight, but in this case without Christian name: "Lady" with the surname of the husband only, Sir John and Lady Smith. When a woman divorces a knight and he marries again, the new wife will be Lady Smith while the ex-wife becomes Jane, Lady Smith.

Female members of the Order of the Garter and Order of the Thistle also receive the prefix of "Lady"; here that title is prefixed to the given and family name of the lady, e.g. Lady Marion Fraser, LT, with the post nominal LG or LT respectively, and this is preserved if the lady marries.

Other meanings

The special use of the word as a title of the Virgin Mary, usually Our Lady, represents the Latin Domina Nostra. In Lady Day and Lady Chapel the word is properly a genitive, representing hlǣfdigan "of the Lady".

The word is also used as a title of the Wicca goddess, The Lady.

Margaret Thatcher was informally referred to in the same way by many of her political colleagues when Prime Minister of Great Britain. Her husband was later created a baronet, thus making her "Lady Thatcher" as of right. After she retired, she was given a barony as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, and was thereafter known as "The Lady Thatcher".

Elsewhere in the Commonwealth, the word is used in a similar fashion to aristocratic usage in Britain. In Ghana, for example, the consort of the Asantehene of the Ashanti people is known as Lady Julia Osei Tutu. In Nigeria, the Yoruba aristocrats Kofoworola, Lady Ademola and Oyinkansola, Lady Abayomi made use of the title due to their being the wives of British knights.

In the BDSM community, many female dominants choose the title Lady as an alternative to the more commonly used Mistress.

See also

Related Research Articles

Baron is a rank of nobility or title of honour, often hereditary. The female equivalent is baroness.

A courtesy title is a form of address in systems of nobility used for children, former wives and other close relatives of a peer, as well as certain officials such as some judges and members of the Scottish gentry. These styles are used 'by courtesy' in the sense that the relatives, officials and others do not themselves hold substantive titles. There are several different kinds of courtesy titles in the British peerage.

A style of office, honorific or manner/form of address, is an official or legally recognized form of address, and may often be used in conjunction with a title. A style, by tradition or law, precedes a reference to a person who holds a post or political office, and is sometimes used to refer to the office itself. An honorific can also be awarded to an individual in a personal capacity. Such styles are particularly associated with monarchies, where they may be used by a wife of an office holder or of a prince of the blood, for the duration of their marriage. They are also almost universally used for presidents in republics and in many countries for members of legislative bodies, higher-ranking judges and senior constitutional office holders. Leading religious figures also have styles.

Sir is a formal English honorific address for men, derived from Sire in the High Middle Ages. Traditionally, as governed by law and custom, Sir is used for men titled knights i.e. of orders of chivalry, and later also to baronets, and other offices. As the female equivalent for knighthood is damehood, the suo jure female equivalent term is typically Dame. The wife of a knight or baronet tends to be addressed Lady, although a few exceptions and interchanges of these uses exist.

A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either veneration, an official position, or a professional or academic qualification. In some languages, titles may be inserted between the first and last name. Some titles are hereditary.

A dowager is a widow who holds a title or property—a "dower"—derived from her deceased husband. As an adjective, dowager usually appears in association with monarchical and aristocratic titles.

Forms of address used in the United Kingdom are given below. For further information on Courtesy Titles see Courtesy titles in the United Kingdom.

The Malay language has a complex system of styles, titles and honorifics, which are used extensively in Brunei and Malaysia. Singapore, whose Malay royalty was abolished by the British colonial government in 1891, has adopted civic titles for its leaders. The Philippines historically used Malay titles during its pre-Hispanic period, as evidenced by the titles of historical figures such as Rajah Sulayman, Lakandula and Dayang Kalangitan. Malay titles are still used by the royal houses of Sulu, Maguindanao, Buayan, and Maranao on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, but these are retained on a traditional basis, as the 1987 Constitution explicitly reaffirms the abolition of royal and noble titles in the republic. Indonesia, meanwhile, as a republic, does not recognize hereditary rulers and aristocratic systems. Nevertheless, their royal titles and honors are still used as courtesy titles.

Mrs. or Mrs is a commonly used English honorific used for women, usually for those who are married and who do not instead use another title, such as Dr, ProfessorPresident, Dame, etc. In most Commonwealth countries, a full stop (period) is usually not used with the title. In the United States and Canada a period is usually used.

English honorifics title prefixing a persons name

In the English language, an English honorific is a form of address indicating respect. These can be titles prefixing a person's name, e.g.: Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, Mx,Sir, Dr, Lady or Lord, or titles or positions that can appear as a form of address without the person's name, as in Mr President, General, Captain, Father, Doctor or Earl.

Sultana or sultanah is a female royal title, and the feminine form of the word sultan. This term has been officially used for female monarchs in some Islamic states, and historically it was also used for sultan's consorts. Nevertheless, westerners have also used the title to refer to Muslim women monarchs and sultan's women relatives who do not hold this title officially.

Laird Scottish gentry title

Laird is a generic name for the owner of a large, long-established Scottish estate, roughly equivalent to an esquire in England, yet ranking above the same in Scotland. In the Scottish order of precedence, a laird ranks below a baron and above a gentleman. This rank is only held by those lairds holding official recognition in a territorial designation by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. They are usually styled [name] [surname] of [lairdship], and are traditionally entitled to place The Much Honoured before their name.

Begum female royal and aristocratic title indicative of a "higher official"

Begum, begom, begam, baigum or beygum is a female royal and aristocratic title from Central and South Asia. It is the feminine equivalent of the title baig or bey, which in Turkic languages means "higher official". It usually refers to the wife or daughter of a beg. The related form begzadi also occurs.

Dame is an honorific title and the feminine form of address for the honour of damehood in many Christian chivalric orders, as well as the British honours system and those of several other Commonwealth countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, with the masculine form of address being sir. It is the female equivalent for knighthood, which is traditionally granted to males.

Dominus is the Latin word for master or owner. As a title of sovereignty the term under the Roman Republic had all the associations of the Greek Tyrannos; refused during the early principate, it finally became an official title of the Roman Emperors under Diocletian. Dominus, the French equivalent being "sieur", was the Latin title of the feudal, superior and mesne, lords, and also an ecclesiastical and academical title. The ecclesiastical title was rendered in English "sir", which was a common prefix before the Reformation for parsons, as in Sir Hugh Evans in Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor. In the past, the academical use was for a Bachelor of Arts. The shortened form "Dom" is used as a prefix of honor for ecclesiastics of the Catholic Church, and especially for members of the benedictine and other religious orders.

Woman of the Bedchamber

In the Royal Household of the United Kingdom the term Woman of the Bedchamber is used to describe a woman attending either a queen regnant or queen consort, in the role of Lady-in-Waiting.

A gentlewoman in the original and strict sense is a woman of good family, analogous to the Latin generosus and generosa. The closely related English word "gentry" derives from the Old French genterise, gentelise, with much of the meaning of the French noblesse and the German Adel, but without the strict technical requirements of those traditions, such as quarters of nobility.

Mister, usually written in its abbreviated form Mr. (US) or Mr (UK), is a commonly used English honorific for men under the rank of knighthood. The title 'Mr' derived from earlier forms of master, as the equivalent female titles Mrs, Miss, and Ms all derived from earlier forms of mistress. Master is sometimes still used as an honorific for boys and young men, but its use is increasingly uncommon.

Kyrios or kurios is a Greek word which is usually translated as "lord" "master" or "teacher". In religious usage, it is sometimes translated as God. It is used in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament. Kyrios appears about 740 times in the New Testament, usually referring to Jesus.

References

PD-icon.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Lady". Encyclopædia Britannica . XVI (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 61–62.

  1. 1 2 Oxford English Dictionary
  2. "Hey, lady: Call her 'madam'". 2 February 2007 via Christian Science Monitor.
  3. Reid Boyd, Elizabeth (2012). "Lady: A Feminist Four Letter Word?". Women and Language. 35 (2): 35–52.
  4. Titles and Forms of Address. Bloomsbury Publishing. 31 January 2007. ISBN   9781408148129 . Retrieved 26 January 2016. The widow of a chief or laird continues to use the territorial style and the prefix Dowager may be used in the same circumstances ... In rural Scotland (laird's) wives are often styled Lady, though not legally except in the case of the wives of chiefs.