Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



Contraction of madam.



ma'am (plural ma'ams)

  1. Contraction of madam. (chiefly used as a form of address).

Usage notes[edit]

  • In British English, ma'am has become uncommon, although it is prescribed when addressing a 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, as well as to female teachers in public and grammar schools. 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 is 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.
  • a form of respect for a woman regardless of age or position
  • In the Southern (southeastern) 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 South Asian English, ma'am is used to address female teachers.
  • In Australian English, a superior female military officer is addressed as Ma'am. Female teachers in many private schools are also addressed as Ma'am.
  • The usage of yes, ma'am yes'm connotes deference, particularly by one who has been scolded for misbehavior, but also in more friendly circumstances.

Coordinate terms[edit]


  • Jersey Dutch: määm


ma'am (third-person singular simple present ma'ams, present participle ma'aming or ma'amming, simple past and past participle ma'amed or ma'ammed)

  1. To address (someone) using "ma'am".
    • 2013, Debra Clopton, Her Unexpected Cowboy, →ISBN:
      "Y'all have about ma'amed me to death. But you can call me Lucy from here on out. Got it?” “Yes, ma'am—I mean, Lucy,”

See also[edit]