• synonyms


noun, plural mam·mies.
  1. Informal. mother1.
  2. Disparaging and Offensive. (formerly in the southern U.S.) a black woman engaged as a nurse to white children or as a servant to a white family.
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Origin of mammy

First recorded in 1515–25; mamm(a)1 + -y2

Usage note

At the time of the Civil War and into the 20th century, the Southern mammy was characterized as being strong, kind, and loyal. But her image was also that of an overweight, unattractive, and often illiterate household slave. This reinforced racial stereotypes of inferiority and servility. See also Aunt Jemima.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for mammy

Historical Examples

  • Just then Maria put her head in at the door to say, "May Lilly, yo' mammy's callin' you."

    The Little Colonel

    Annie Fellows Johnston

  • I also felt that Mammy's room had a more homelike aspect than my own.

  • There was no doubt that Mammy enjoyed her new conditions and surroundings.

  • I was shaving during this monologue of Mammy's, with my back to her.

  • We had long since ceased to think of Mammy Becky—she was never Rebecca—as property.

British Dictionary definitions for mammy



noun plural -mies
  1. a child's word for mother 1
  2. mainly Southern US a Black woman employed as a nurse or servant to a White family
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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 mammy


1520s, diminutive of mam (see mamma). Meaning "black woman having the care of white children" is by 1837, Southern U.S. dialect, variant of mamma.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper