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la·dy (lādē)
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n. pl. la·dies
1. A woman of high social standing or refinement, especially when viewed as dignified or well-mannered.
2. A woman who is the head of a household: Is the lady of the house at home?
3.
a. A woman, especially when spoken of or to in a polite way: Ladies, may I show you to your table?
b. Used as a form of address for a woman, often with sarcasm or irritation: Look, lady, I was ahead of you in line.
4.
a. A woman who is the object of romantic or chivalrous love: a knight serving his lady.
b. Informal A wife or girlfriend: a man kissing his lady at the airport.
5. A lady in waiting: the queen and her ladies.
6. Lady Chiefly British
a. A general feminine title of nobility and other rank, specifically as the title for the wife or widow of a knight or baronet.
b. Used as a form of address for a woman of high rank, especially for a marchioness, countess, viscountess, baroness, or baronetess.
7. Lady The Virgin Mary. Usually used with Our.

[Middle English, mistress of a household, from Old English hlǣfdige; see dheigh- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Usage Note: Lady is normally used as a parallel to gentleman to emphasize norms expected in polite society or in situations requiring courtesies: Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. I believe the lady in front of the counter was here before me. The attributive use of lady, as in lady doctor, is widely offensive and outdated. When the sex of the person is relevant, the preferred modifier is woman or female. Twice as many members of the Usage Panel in our 1994 survey preferred female and male to woman and man as modifiers in the sentence President Clinton interviewed both ______ and ______ candidates for the position of Attorney General.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

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