: 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
: a woman who is a member of an order of knighthood compare dame
Her mother was always telling her to act like a lady.
He bumped into some lady walking to the bus stop.
He helped a little old lady cross the street.
Recent Examples on the WebRosalynn Carter, the former first lady and humanitarian who championed mental health care, provided constant political counsel to her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, and modeled graceful longevity for the nation, died Sunday at her home in Plains, Georgia, according to the Carter Center.—Daniel Arkin, NBC News, 20 Nov. 2023 Biden was in charge of serving mashed potatoes, while the first lady served sweet potato casserole, according to the Associated Press.—Asher Notheis, Washington Examiner, 19 Nov. 2023 The former first lady died peacefully at home, the Carter Center said.—M.l. Nestel, ABC News, 19 Nov. 2023 The former first lady had been diagnosed with dementia and continued to live at home in Plains, Georgia, with her husband, her family said in May.—CBS News, 19 Nov. 2023 The lord and the lady of the manor blither about, tossing out absurdities and cruelties as reflexively as sneezing.—Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 18 Nov. 2023 The female passenger, the young lady, was on her knees on the floor of the Mercedes.—Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, 15 Nov. 2023 Since his landslide runoff electoral victory in August over a former first lady backed by the government, Arevalo has faced one legal challenge after another attempting to disqualify him from office.—Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, 15 Nov. 2023 Love lives aside, Hadid and Swift have not forgotten about their gal pals as they have also been spotted together on numerous ladies’ nights.—Gabrielle Rockson, Peoplemag, 14 Nov. 2023 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'lady.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
Middle English, from Old English hlǣfdige, from hlāf bread + -dige (akin to dǣge kneader of bread) — more at loaf, dairy
First Known Use
before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a
The first known use of lady was
before the 12th century
Old English hlæfdige, from hlāf "loaf of bread" and -dīge, a form of a root word meaning "to knead dough" — related to loaf, lord see Word History at lord
The word lady is nowadays generally used as a polite term for a woman. In the past, however, lady was used primarily for "a woman of a high social class." The Old English ancestor of lady was hlæfdige, which came from two other words. One was hlāf, meaning "loaf of bread." The other was -dīge, a form of a root word meaning "to knead dough." But the word hlæfdige was not used in Old English for an actual bread maker. It was used instead to refer to the woman in charge of maids and of a household. Only very rich and powerful women, members of the nobility, had maids and large households, so a lady was owed much respect. The title lady is still used in Great Britain for a woman who is a member of the nobility.