lady

noun

la·​dy ˈlā-dē How to pronounce lady (audio)
plural ladies
often attributive
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
capitalized : virgin mary
usually used with Our
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
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

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 Web Unfortunately for the would-be lesbian lovers on the run, crazy screaming lady — whose raspy yowl ensnares the listener in a juddering time loop — has other ideas. Jessica Kiang, Variety, 16 Feb. 2024 Wang captioned the photos of the ladies in their matching dresses from her Haute Fashion collection. Julia Moore, Peoplemag, 16 Feb. 2024 Very honoured to take on Sue Storm, Marvel’s OG lady since 1961. Monica Mercuri, Forbes, 14 Feb. 2024 And Trump’s wife, former first lady Melania Trump, has been absent from the campaign trail and has not appeared with him at a public campaign event since his announcement speech. James Pollard, Quartz, 11 Feb. 2024 Traditionally, the president and first lady attend the event, with the former using the opportunity to deliver some jokes as well. Alex Weprin, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 Feb. 2024 The ladies wrapped filming last summer and had been playing the waiting game since. Elizabeth Ayoola, Essence, 9 Feb. 2024 The first lady’s high profile has earned her fans but also increasingly drawn criticism. Yoonjung Seo, CNN, 9 Feb. 2024 Will the ladies have to face a gator on the path to finding everlasting love? Rebecca Angel Baer, Southern Living, 7 Feb. 2024 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.

Word History

Etymology

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

Time Traveler
The first known use of lady was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near lady

Cite this Entry

“Lady.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lady. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

lady

noun
la·​dy ˈlād-ē How to pronounce lady (audio)
plural ladies
1
: a woman of property, rank, or authority
especially : one having a standing equivalent to that of a lord
used as a title
2
capitalized : virgin mary
usually used with Our
3
: a woman of high social position
4
5
Etymology

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

Word Origin
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.

More from Merriam-Webster on lady

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!