Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun, often attributive la·dy \ˈlā-dē\

Simple Definition of lady

  • : a woman who behaves in a polite way

  • : a woman of high social position

  • : a man's girlfriend

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of lady



  1. 1 a :  a woman having proprietary rights or authority especially as a feudal superior b :  a woman receiving the homage or devotion of a knight or lover

  2. 2 capitalized :  virgin mary —usually used with Our

  3. 3 a :  a woman of superior social position b :  a woman of refinement and gentle manners c :  woman, female —often used in a courteous reference <show the lady to a seat> or usually in the plural in address <ladies and gentlemen>

  4. 4 a :  wife b :  girlfriend, mistress

  5. 5 a :  any of various titled women in Great Britain —used as the customary title of (1) a marchioness, countess, viscountess, or baroness or (2) the wife of a knight, baronet, member of the peerage, or one having the courtesy title of lord and used as a courtesy title for the daughter of a duke, marquess, or earl b :  a woman who is a member of an order of knighthood — compare dame

Examples of lady in a sentence

  1. Her mother was always telling her to act like a lady.

  2. He bumped into some lady walking to the bus stop.

  3. He helped a little old lady cross the street.

Origin and Etymology of lady

Middle English, from Old English hlǣfdige, from hlāf bread + -dige (akin to dǣge kneader of bread) — more at loaf, dairy

First Known Use: before 12th century

LADY Defined for Kids


noun la·dy \ˈlā-dē\

Definition of lady for Students



  1. 1 :  a woman of high social position

  2. 2 :  a woman or girl who behaves in a polite way

  3. 3 :  woman 1 <The lady behind me was first.>

  4. 4 :  wife

  5. 5 :  a British noblewoman —used as a title <Lady Jane Grey>

History for lady

Lady was actually formed as a compound word, though its nature has been completely disguised by centuries of sound change. The Old English ancestor of lady was hlǣfdige, “female head of the household.” This compound is made up of hlāf, “loaf, bread,” and -dige, which is thought to mean “kneader,” and is akin to Old English dāg, “dough.” Why the “kneader of dough” was thought to be the most important woman in the household we are not quite sure.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up lady? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a great number

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • bride-of-dracula-in-cat-form-surrounded-by-candles-and-somewhat-bewilderingly-orange-sacks-instead-of-surely-much-cheaper-and-easier-to-find-actual-pumpkins
  • Which is a synonym of phlegmatic?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.