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[mad-uh m] /ˈmæd əm/
noun, plural mesdames
[mey-dam, -dahm] /meɪˈdæm, -ˈdɑm/ (Show IPA),
for 1; madams for 2, 3.
(often initial capital letter) a polite term of address to a woman, originally used only to a woman of rank or authority:
Madam President; May I help you, madam?
the woman in charge of a household:
Is the madam at home?
the woman in charge of a house of prostitution.
Origin of madam
1250-1300; Middle English madame < Old French, orig. ma dame my lady; see dame
Can be confused
madam, madame. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for madams
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • What will be the price of the plaintiff's pleadings then, madams?

  • But there were other madams and Mademoiselles boarding that train.

    The Magic Curtain

    Roy J. Snell
  • He has his madams to play with, and to bring them back to happiness, and to those that love them.

    Dracula Bram Stoker
  • These "madams" of the valet were beginning to fret Sophy cruelly.

    Shadows of Flames Amelie Rives
  • "He is one of our national glories," madams de S— cried out, with sudden vehemence.

    Under Western Eyes Joseph Conrad
  • I returned to lay our first-fruits at madams feet, he explained, his darkly watchful eyes upon us both.

    By order of the company Mary Johnston
  • Under that genial breath the colour came slowly back to madams cheek and lip, and her heart beat more strongly.

    By order of the company Mary Johnston
British Dictionary definitions for madams


noun (pl) madams, (for sense 1) mesdames (ˈmeɪˌdæm)
a polite term of address for a woman, esp one considered to be of relatively high social status
a woman who runs a brothel
(Brit, informal) a precocious or pompous little girl
(South African, informal) the madam, the lady of the house
Word Origin
C13: from Old French ma dame my lady
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for madams


c.1300, from Old French ma dame, literally "my lady," from Latin mea domina (cf. madonna). Meaning "female owner or manager of a brothel" is first attested 1871.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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