English edit

Etymology edit

The noun is a contraction of madam, and represents a regional pronunciation of that word in the United Kingdom.[1] The verb is derived from the noun.[2]

Pronunciation edit

Noun edit

ma'am (plural ma'ams)

  1. Chiefly used as a form of address: contraction of madam.
    Synonyms: 'm, marm
    • 1668 June 22 (first performance; Gregorian calendar), John Dryden, An Evening’s Love, or The Mock-Astrologer. [], In the Savoy [London]: [] T[homas] N[ewcomb] for Henry Herringman, [], published 1671, →OCLC, Act III, page 33:
      Madam me no Madam, but learn to retrench your vvords; and ſay Mam; as yes Mam, and no Mam, as other Ladies VVomen do. Madam! 'tis a year in pronouncing.
    • 1697, [John Vanbrugh], “[Part I]”, in Æsop. A Comedy. [], 3rd edition, London: [] Richard Wellington, [], published 1702, →OCLC, Act V, page 45:
      Gad take my Soul, Mame, I hope I ſhall pleaſe you now— [] I vovv to Gad, Mame, I vvas ſo taken up vvith my good Fortune, I did not obſerve the extream Fancy of your Ladiſhip's VVedding-Cloaths— []
    • 1700, [William] Congreve, The Way of the World, a Comedy. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, Act V, scene i, page 74:
      O yes Mem, I'll vouch any thing for your Ladyſhip's ſervice, be vvhat it vvill.
    • 1765, Samuel Foote, The Commissary. A Comedy [], London: [] P[aul] Vaillant, [], →OCLC, Act I, page 8:
      If I, ma'am, can be of the leaſt uſe—
    • 1837 August, Boz [pseudonym; Charles Dickens], “In Which Oliver Is Taken Better Care of than He Ever Was Before. With Some Particulars Concerning a Certain Picture.”, in Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress. [], volume I, London: Richard Bentley, [], published 1838, →OCLC, page 182:
      "You're very, very kind to me, ma'am," said Oliver.
    • 1841 February–November, Charles Dickens, “Barnaby Rudge”, in Master Humphrey’s Clock, volume II, London: Chapman & Hall, [], →OCLC, chapter 7, page 273:
      You was wrong, mim, and I was right. I thought he wouldn't keep us up so late, two nights running, mim. Master's always considerate so far. I'm so glad, mim, on your account.
    • 1847 December, Acton Bell [pseudonym; Anne Brontë], “The Cottagers”, in Agnes Grey. [], London: Thomas Cautley Newby, [], →OCLC, page 176:
      [H]e axed if wer stock o' coals was nearly done. I telled him it was, an' we was ill set to get more—but you know mum I didn't think o' him helping us—but howsever, he sent us a sack o' coals next day; []
    • 1854, Charles Dickens, “Effects in the Bank”, in Hard Times. For These Times, London: Bradbury & Evans, [], →OCLC, book the second (Reaping), page 140:
      Thank you, ma'am. But, since you do refer to me, now look at me, ma'am. I have put by a little, ma'am, already. That gratuity which I receive at Christmas, ma'am: I never touch it. I don't even go the length of my wages, though they're not high, ma'am. Why can't they do as I have done, ma'am? What one person can do, another can do.
    • 1865 May 15 – 1866 January 1, Anthony Trollope, “William Belton Does Not Go Out Hunting”, in The Belton Estate. [], volume II, London: Chapman and Hall, [], published December 1865 (indicated as 1866), →OCLC, pages 220–221:
      "A telegruff message, mum, for Mr. William," said the maid, looking at her mistress with eyes opened wide, as she handed the important bit of paper to her master.
    • 1921 August–September, John Buchan, “Of the Princess in the Tower”, in Huntingtower, London: Hodder and Stoughton, published August 1922, →OCLC, page 99:
      Very pleased to meet you, Mem. I'm Mr. McCunn from Glasgow.
    • 1944 May–June, “When the Circle was Steam Operated”, in The Railway Magazine, London: Tothill Press, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 150:
      The length of the stoppages could not well be reduced; indeed, they are already too short if we are to believe the tale now current of a wandering Jew sort of passenger—a lady of advanced years who can only alight from a train backwards. Every time she begins to get out a porter rushes up crying "Hurry up, ma'am; train's going!"—and pushes her in again!
    • 2024 February 10 (last accessed), “Greeting a Member of The Royal Family”, in Royal.gov.uk[1], archived from the original on 2024-02-10:
      There are no obligatory codes of behaviour when meeting The Queen or a member of the Royal Family, but many people wish to observe the traditional forms. [] On presentation to The Queen, the correct formal address is ‘Your Majesty’ and subsequently ‘Ma’am’, pronounced with a short ‘a’, as in ‘jam’. [] For other female members of the Royal Family the first address is conventionally ‘Your Royal Highness’ and subsequently ‘Ma’am’.
      According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the information is based on a Buckingham Palace protocol dating to c. 1990.[1]
  2. (archaic) A woman addressed as "ma'am".
    1. A married woman other than one's wife.
      Synonyms: see Thesaurus:wife
    2. (US, education) A female schoolteacher; a schoolmarm.
      Synonym: schoolma'am

Usage notes edit

  • In British English and Australian English, madam and ma’am were originally used to address a married woman of equal or superior status to oneself (unless she was entitled to be addressed as “my Lady”). Ma'am has now become uncommon, although it is prescribed when addressing a queen: after first addressing her as “Your Majesty”, one uses ma’am. The word is still used to address female superiors who are members of royalty or in the armed forces and security services, as well as female teachers in grammar and public schools.[1]
  • In American English, madam as a form of address is limited to certain highly formal environments, while ma’am is used as a polite form of address toward (for example, but not strictly limited to) the following women, with usage varying according to region:
    • One’s mother.
    • A female customer whom one is serving.
    • A female superior in the armed forces or security services.
    • A female teacher or school official in a school which emphasizes formality.
    • A female stranger presumed old enough to have children, particularly if older than the speaker.
    • Especially in the southern (chiefly southeastern) and southwestern United States, a woman regardless of age or position to whom one wishes to express respect.
  • In Philippine English, ma’am is followed by a given name or nickname to address women who are neither in the military nor security services, mainly in informal settings.
  • South African English usage mirrors American English usage, except that ma’am is not used to address one’s mother.
  • In South Asian English, ma'am is used to address female superiors in the armed forces and security services, and teachers.
  • The use of yes, ma’am or yes’m connotes deference, particularly by one who has been scolded for misbehaviour but also in more friendly circumstances.

Alternative forms edit

Coordinate terms edit

Derived terms edit

Related terms edit

Descendants edit

  • Bengali: মেম (mem)
  • Gujarati: મેમ (mem)
  • Hindi: मेम (mem)
  • Jersey Dutch: määm
  • Russian: мэм (mɛm)
  • Thai: แหม่ม (mɛ̀m)
  • Ukrainian: мем (mem)
  • Urdu: میم (mem)

Translations edit

Verb edit

ma'am (third-person singular simple present ma'ams, present participle ma'aming or ma'amming, simple past and past participle ma'amed or ma'ammed)

  1. (transitive, informal) To address (a woman) as "ma'am".
    Coordinate term: madam
    • 2014, Debra Clopton, Her Unexpected Cowboy, New York, N.Y.: Harlequin Love Inspired, →ISBN, page 42:
      ["]And, fellas, I've got to tell you that your Texas manners are perfect. Y'all have about ma'amed me to death. But you can call me Lucy from here on out. Got it?" / "Yes, ma'am—I mean, Lucy," Joseph complied, taking the sledgehammer and grinning as he looked from it to the blue wall.

Translations edit

References edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 ma’am, n.1”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2023; ma’am, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  2. ^ ma’am, v.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, July 2023.

Further reading edit

Anagrams edit