Contraction of madam.
ma'am (plural ma'ams)
- A contracted form of madam (chiefly used as a form of address).
- In British English, ma'am has become uncommon, although it must be used when addressing the queen more than once: after first addressing her as Your Majesty, one uses ma'am. The term is also sometimes still used in the armed forces and security services when addressing female superiors. Both ma'am and its full form madam are only rarely (far less commonly than in the US) used to express respect outside of these circumstances.
- In American English, the full form madam is limited as a form of address to certain highly formal environments, while ma'am is the usual term. Ma'am is not often used in the other sense of madam, but as used as a polite form of address toward (for example, but not strictly limited to):
- a female stranger presumed old enough to have children, particularly if older than the speaker,
- a female customer one is serving,
- one's mother,
- a female teacher or school official in a school which emphasizes formality, or
- a female superior in the military.
- In the southern and southwestern US, ma'am is used to address any female, regardless of her age or position.
- South African usage mirrors American English usage except that ma'am is not used to address one's mother.
- In Pakistan and India, ma'am is used to address teachers.
- The usage of yes, ma’am connotes deference, particularly by one who has been scolded for misbehavior, but also in more friendly circumstances.
- To address (someone) using "ma'am".