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Question: is the term 'lady' used colloquially in different ways in the US, the UK, etc?

In the US, "lady" can be used interchangeably with "woman" in a strictly informal way.

I'm not sure if this holds true outside the US.

The term "Lady" is one of social status, and I strongly disagree with the use of it as a generic for any female. Used as such it is a euphemism and an unpleasant one at that! Does anyone object if I delete the assertion at the top of the article: ""Lady" can be used as a title, or as a (formal) form of address for any woman."? The subsection "More recent usage: social class" just about says it all.
Nick Michael 21:39, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

The article makes no mention of the modern of use of the singular "lady" as a rude and sexist term. In US English, if you want to catch a woman's attention, and say, "Wait a second, lady," you'd receive a very bad glare in return. This is the equivalent of the way the sexist term "broad" was used in the 1970s. The article acts as though the term is only used in the plural in US English. I haven't made any edits to reflect this. Fungicord (talk) 10:02, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

kenny rogers[edit]

Sorry. But I think the song should be a separate entry. 00:13, 9 July 2006 (UTC

Gibson girls ladies?[edit]

I propose deleting the Gibson girl image from this article, as being a misleading "image" of a "Lady". Gibson girls were not (necessarily) ladies: they were the equivalent of today's fashion models, or high-society girls. I mean, would you call Paris Hilton a lady?

The trouble is, I believe, that British and American usages differ so much regarding this word that they probably need two different articles: Lady (USA) and Lady (Britain). I suppose that's more than we can hope for though.

For me (Brit), a lady is not necessarily beautiful, nor (like her male counterpart, who does not necessarily open doors for women), can she be defined by someone who uses a butter knife even when she is alone (this definition is a joke of Nancy Mitford's - who was most certainly a lady).

Taking it back to its roots, a Lady is a woman "of family". This makes (in my experience) for redoubtable females of personality (not necessarily pleasant), and, as far as the country version is concerned, often with the complexion of a deep-sea fisherman (Nancy Mitford again). P. G. Wodehouse knew what a lady was, and aunts Agatha and Dahlia are the best references I can think of for the animal in question.

If no one replies or comments on this, I think the rules allow me to act in a few days, whereupon I shall remove the inaccurate image - and meanwhile look for one more appropriate.

Nick Michael 06:43, 26 February 2007 (UTC)

This article is wrong in one instance, questionable in another, and self-contradictory in a third==[edit]

Wrong: The paragraph on the use of the word "Lady" as a "customary" but not "proper" for the wife of a knight when the knight is also not a Lord or King and the wife has no titles, throne, or knighthoods in her own right. It's never a title (Duke, Duchess, Earl, Countess, etc., variously followed by "of" or not). It is a style of address (Sir, Your Grace, Dr.).

Questionable: Is "customary" as used here a euphemism for "wrong"? The article on "Dame" says that it was "formerly" the style of address for the wife of a knight, but was replaced by "Lady" during the 17th century. But there is no citation, no first known case of a Knight's wife who was granted the style of address "Lady". In the absence of such a citation there and no more clarity in the article here, no reader can be sure that this is not another example of heraldic inflation the most common form of which is people who have a coat of arms but no crest referring to their coat of arms as a "crest", fraudulently inflating their heraldic status. If research shows that in fact it is only in common speech and not in law that a knight's wife is a "lady", then the word "customary" should be changed to "wrong". As wrong as referring to any sweet soda as "a coke" and any photocopier as "a xerox".

Self-contradictory: As to whether "Lady" is the correct style of address for the wife of a knight as described above, this article says that "Dame" is "proper", but used only in sepulchral monuments (where, according to this Article, the form is as in "Dame Jane Smith") and in legal documents (where, according to this Article, the form is as in "Sir John and The Lady Smith".) But how can the form "Sir John and The Lady Smith" be an example of how "Dame" is used in legal documents when the word "Dame" does not OCCUR in the form "Sir John and The Lady Smith"? I do not profess to know what is correct (except that "style of address" and "title" are not the same thing), but any reader who does not know what is correct can tell that an article which contradicts itself must be incorrect in at least one place, even if the reader cannot tell which of the two contradictory statements is incorrect. 08:31, 13 October 2007 (UTC)Christopher L. Simpson

All titelage is customary, and hence customary is, if you will, a dysphemism for right. --2001:4CA0:0:FE00:200:5EFE:81BB:D254 (talk) 16:32, 15 January 2013 (UTC)

The Dowager or just Dowager?[edit]

The section on British usage mentions in the first paragraph: A widow becomes the dowager, e.g. The Dowager Lady Smith. In the third paragraph it is stated that: If a knight dies, his widow becomes Dowager Lady Smith (no the). Which is correct? I have looked in vain for a 'ruling' but find none. However publications of prestige (who ought to know) like the Times, Guardian... certainly use the definite article. Nick Michael (talk) 07:17, 12 August 2008 (UTC)
She is THE Dowager if someone else has inhereted her husband's titles, and they have married (unless the successor is a woman). A knight's wife would not use the word the because her husband's title could not have passsed to another. For example, the Duke of Rutland's mother, the Dowager Duchess of Rutland, is such because the style of Duke is inheritable, and her son has a new wife. (talk) 08:55, 19 November 2008 (UTC)

The Yanks have landed[edit]

Just kidding. Well partly kidding. It seems to me that the main thing about the word "lady" is that it is a term of respect given to a woman. Every thing else is secondary. I.E. it is used as a title of nobility because it was first a term of respect; it is not a term of respect because it was first used as a title of nobility. Please correct me if I am wrong. I will boldly change the first sentence of the article. Disagree if you like. Steve Dufour (talk) 14:36, 31 May 2010 (UTC)

First Lady[edit]

The article seems to imply that the wife of the president of the USA is called the First Lady because she is the mistress of the White House. I don't understand it this way. She is the first lady since, because we don't have a queen or other noble ladies here, she is the woman most honored in society. Steve Dufour (talk) 14:43, 31 May 2010 (UTC)

The article First Lady is quite clear on how the usage came about, and how it was applied to Buchanan's niece when she was White House hostess. It has nothing to do with the honor afforded the lady in question, it has to do with her position as the nation's preeminent hostess. Powers T 01:36, 6 June 2010 (UTC)

American use[edit]

In the USA the word "lady" seems to be much more generally used than in the UK. See for instance Lady (Kenny Rogers song). I am not saying that the USA is more important, or that other English speaking nations should be ignored either, but the article could use a more world-wide scope. If I can find a source that discusses American use, rather than just give examples, I will add that to the article. Steve Dufour (talk) 15:59, 31 May 2010 (UTC)

I doubt that is the case, & what one Kenny Rogers song demonstrates I can't imagine. For the most part sources for comparisons of use are hard to find, unless you know the specific literature. For example in the UK toilets marked "men" and "women" are I think much rarer than in the US, & mostly found in the public sector. Johnbod (talk) 16:14, 31 May 2010 (UTC)
I wasn't planning on using the song as a reference. However when people heard it, and it was a major hit written by Lionel Richie BTW, I think all of us Americans knew that Kenny (and Lionel) was expressing his respect and devotion to the woman he loves. None of us thought she was an English noblewoman, or even worried about her social class. Steve Dufour (talk) 17:30, 31 May 2010 (UTC)
That isn't what the article says - I think you're a little over-sensitive on this point. I'm actuallly dubious "respect" is really the right word; people using the term are only sometimes expressing any kind of personal judgement about the woman in question - usually they are not. The term is especially used of complete strangers of whom the speaker has no knowledge, I would have thought. "politeness" is more like it I think. And the article should not be entirely about contemporary usage. Johnbod (talk) 17:53, 31 May 2010 (UTC)
I agree that "polite" might be better than "respect." I also don't want to remove any of the information on "Lady" as used as a title. I just think that is secondary. If a person was to look on Google news, for instance, for the day's use of the word "lady" I don't think even 1% would be about people with the title of "Lady." Steve Dufour (talk) 19:06, 31 May 2010 (UTC)
I'm not so sure about that - in fact of course all you actually pick up is Lady Gaga, plus the odd Our Lady - both titles I suppose [1]. Also see the incoming links here. But all need covering. Filter "gaga" out & you get a very mixed bag [2], and a different picture in gbooks [3]. Johnbod (talk) 19:22, 31 May 2010 (UTC)
I stand corrected. The article is much better now. Thanks. Steve Dufour (talk) 12:56, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
Thanks! I'll make the change to politeness. More could be added I'm sure. I actually think US/UK usage is pretty similar for the most part. Maybe I've watched too many too many B-movies, but isn't or wasn't "lady" used in the US as a direct term of address by Brooklyn taxi-drivers, policeman etc, without being considered actually offensive? Brusque maybe. Not I think ever in the UK. In both countries it is very common as a term for a 3rd person who is present: "give the lady your ticket, Timmy" and so on. The rise and fall of "lady journalist", "lady cellist", "lady doctor" and so on could be covered. Here are some ladies playing football. I notice only men seem to contribute to the article for some reason. Johnbod (talk) 13:18, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
In my opinion the cab driver's "Hey Lady" is an expression of respect. It's saying: "I don't want to have a personal relationship with you. Just tell me where you want to go and pay the fare." And in the USA ladies play golf, the LPGA, but other sports are played by women the WNBA. :-) Steve Dufour (talk) 15:28, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
I think I was a little unclear. It's more like: "Hey Lady. You are the boss. I am your employee. So tell me what to do and pay me my wages." Steve Dufour (talk) 11:47, 3 June 2010 (UTC)
Yes, it is intended like ma'am. But I don't think there was ever an equivalent use in UK English; I wonder if it comes from immigrants adapting a German or Dutch usage? Ladies play tennis surely - certainly they do at Wimbledon. Johnbod (talk) 12:03, 3 June 2010 (UTC)
In the USA it's usually called "women's tennis", or anyway "women tennis players." Women's Tennis Association Steve Dufour (talk) 12:31, 3 June 2010 (UTC)
Yes, in normal discussion in the UK too; but the matches are always formally for ladies; same in football - the "womens'" teams are nearly all called "Foo Ladies" (or "girls" for youth teams). Johnbod (talk) 12:36, 3 June 2010 (UTC)
My niece's high school girls' sports teams were called the "Lady Cougers." Steve Dufour (talk) 13:27, 3 June 2010 (UTC)

Well, it used to be used in English:
'Bot wolde ȝe, lady louely, þen leue me grante,
(Sir Gawain)
Now help me, lady, since ye may and can
(Canterbury Tales)
Lady! thy bounty, thy magnificence,
Thy virtue, and thy great humility,
There may no tongue express in no science:
For sometimes, Lady! ere men pray to thee,
Nick Michael (talk) 22:38, 3 June 2010 (UTC)

You're right of course; I wonder when it died out. As the OED points out, in the plural the vocative is still going strong (this way please, ladies...), but in the singular they say (LADY 4b): "now confined to poetical & rhetorical use", & quote Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton & Shelley. But perhaps it was still a normal usage in Shakespeare's time? Johnbod (talk) 22:52, 3 June 2010 (UTC)

Shakespeare at least uses it in his plays. Skimming through a couple:
I prithee, lady, have a better cheer;

Lady, of that I have made a bold charter;
All's Well

Lady, I will commend you to mine own heart.
I know the reason, lady, why you ask.
Love's Labours Lost

But this doesn't mean that it was necessarily normal usage. And anyway, in all these examples, the word is used as a title: if Gawain had been a cabbie, I don't think he would have used the term for his fares... But then, what term would he have used?
Nick Michael (talk) 12:37, 4 June 2010 (UTC)


In the AfD, I raised this point in passing. Lady is the female equivalent of both gentleman and lord. We have separate articles on the latter two because they are separate concepts. Likewise, we should do the same for lady. There is no good reason to have a single article on two separate concepts just because they are referred to by the same word in English. Note that this situation causes interwiki link problems; fr:Lady is a disambiguation page that refers to the English word "Lady", for instance. The correct interwiki link is fr:Dame, but that's also a disambiguation page. And we can't pick just one of the French articles listed on that disambiguation page, because this English article covers multiple senses.

Therefore, I see no recourse but to have this article split into Lady (nobility) and Lady (society) or similar titles.

-- Powers T 14:44, 4 June 2010 (UTC)

I would support that. Sorry, now I'm undecided since the other side made some good points too. The article is not really a problem now, and WP is itself imperfect.Steve Dufour (talk) 20:19, 4 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose You said in the Afd that each article should only cover one "concept". I didn't reply at the time, but imo that is clearly not the case, not least because it is often impossible and fruitless to try to slice subjects up like that - see Humanism for example. I think the same applies here - bear in mind that the use of "Lady" as a title is strictly a matter of convention only for at least the wives of knights & children of dukes etc; there is no formal award. The two concepts are pretty seamless & I see no point in splitting them other than into sections - a lot of cross-reference would be needed anyway. Johnbod (talk) 01:16, 5 June 2010 (UTC)


Anybody else like Portrait of a Lady (van der Weyden)? Steve Dufour (talk) 02:45, 8 June 2010 (UTC)

Yes (having written some of it), although I'm not sure it is beyond doubt that the model would have been regarded as a "lady" in her lifetime. Johnbod (talk) 08:50, 8 June 2010 (UTC)

Interested to know why you think Rogier's model may not be quite a lady! I notice that the Berlin van der Weyden is entitled "Portrait of a Woman". Quite right too: let us avoid using "Lady" as a euphemism for "Woman" (although it has been difficult for me to tell my children: "Say hello to the nice woman...". I mean, you wouldn't hesitate to use "man" in like circumstances, dammit). Nick Michael (talk) 09:46, 8 June 2010 (UTC)

Well, the Berlin "woman" is thought to be possibly Vrou van der Weyden & got out in more a housewifely fashion, whereas the DC lady seems aristocratic, if only from the fancy belt, which may not be much to go on. I thought we had something in the article on this but I can't see it now. In those days I don't think bourgeois women were ladies, quite. I see vicarious immersion in Calvinist plainness is finally getting to you ..... :) Johnbod (talk) 21:23, 8 June 2010 (UTC)

No John, it was the Washington Rogier "Portrait of a Lady" that you (see above) cast aspersions upon. There is no doubt that the Berlin "Portrait of a Woman" is indeed what it describes. As for the spirit of Calvin getting to me, well yes, he walks here still (it is said that if you are invited to tea by an old Genevese family, your hostess will ask: "How many lumps of sugar? One or just a half?") but I like to think myself impervious to so miserable an attitude... Nick Michael (talk) 20:47, 9 June 2010 (UTC)

C.S. Lewis[edit]

Not sure how relevant it is (maybe it'd find a place in the article -- British Usage?), but I thought I'd share this amusing bit from C.S. Lewis' Collected Letters. "The word 'lady' now just means 'female'," he writes to an American correspondent; "for example, when I was at Holloway Prison, the guard told me it was 'a ladies' prison'." XP Flipping Mackerel (talk) 04:20, 27 July 2010 (UTC)

Mackerel, I think you should add that in the "General Usage: Social Class" section. It would go well with the first paragraph, and it also reinforces the date around which this phenomenon occurred. It's a pet hate of mine how 'lady' has become a euphemism for 'woman'. You can't tell a child: "Say thank you to the nice woman" without causing some sort of offence, or at the very least, surprise. I would even hesitate to say it myself, so strong has the taboo become. Note also that 'gentleman' for 'man', although common (public lavatories etc.), is less ab/used: you can tell a child: "Say hello to the nice man" without eyebrows being raised! Nick Michael (talk) 06:03, 27 July 2010 (UTC)

Hunter Hotel?[edit]

I would like to see an inline citation (photo?) of the referenced sign at the Hunter Hotel (Ireland?) that reads: "Ladies and Gentlemen will not pick the flowers; others must not". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:39, 10 March 2011 (UTC)

The issues that "most Americans" are missing is the will not / must not difference. The sign is actually quite humorous, as it says, essentially "L&G know better than to pick the flowers, whereas others are forbidden to do so." Funny in it's own right, but doubly so with the implied understanding that one of humble stature (the sign) does not make demands upon a lady or a gentleman. (talk) 13:59, 24 December 2012 (UTC)

"The article 'The' (written with the capital letter 'T' even when the title appears in the middle of the sentence) should be used prior to "Lady" or "Lord" in all cases"[edit]

Surely not when addressing the person. I am not English, but I suspect not in informal conversation either. Kostaki mou (talk) 00:00, 8 January 2016 (UTC)