• synonyms


  1. a woman who maintains a brothel; madam.
  2. a prostitute.
  3. Archaic. a procuress.
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Origin of bawd

1325–75; Middle English bawde, noun use of Middle French baude, feminine of baud jolly, dissolute < West Germanic; compare Old English bald bold
Can be confusedbaud bawd
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for bawds

courtesan, streetwalker, strumpet, hussy, pro, tramp, trollop, harlot, whore, tart, doxy

Examples from the Web for bawds

Historical Examples of bawds

  • All that seems wanting to complete the list is that we should turn pimps and bawds.

    The Robbers

    Friedrich Schiller

  • Where are the mothers that play the bawds to their own daughters?

  • All fortune-tellers are bawds, and, for that reason, are so much followed by people of fashion.

  • The allusion to Tarsia suggests some notice of the practice of the Roman bawds when they had secured a virgin.

  • Ladies who employ men in the offices which should be reserved for their sex, are they not bawds in effect?

British Dictionary definitions for bawds


noun archaic
  1. a person who runs a brothel, esp a woman
  2. a prostitute
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Word Origin for bawd

C14: shortened from Old French baudetrot, from baude feminine of baud merry + trot one who runs errands; compare Old High German bald bold
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

Word Origin and History for bawds



a complicated word of uncertain history. First attested late 15c., "lewd person" (of either sex; since c.1700 applied only to women), probably from baude-strote "procurer of prostitutes" (mid-14c.), which may be from Middle English bawde (adj.) "merry, joyous," from Old French baud "gay, licentious" (from Frankish bald "bold" or some such Germanic source). It would not be the first time a word meaning "joyous" had taken on a sexual sense. The sense evolution shading from "bold" to "lewd" is not difficult; cf. Old French baudise "ardor, joy, elation, act of boldness, presumption;" baudie "elation, high spirits," fole baudie "bawdry, shamelessness." The Old French word also is the source of French baudet "donkey," in Picardy dialect "loose woman."

The second element in baude-strote would be trot "one who runs errands," or Germanic *strutt (see strut). But OED doubts all this. There was an Old French baudestrote, baudetrot of the same meaning (13c.), and this may be the direct source of Middle English baude-strote. The obsolete word bronstrops "procuress," frequently found in Middleton's comedies, probably is an alteration of baude-strote.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper