In the Philippines, they use the honorific ma'am before a name, such as Ma'am Garcia or Ma'am Karen. I think this is incorrect use of the word ma'am, but I was told it is acceptable.

Is this usage correct?

  • 9
    This is not done in standard 'Anglo' English; but if it is the convention in Phillippine colloquial English, it is perfectly fine there, and should not be called "incorrect". – StoneyB Jun 20 '14 at 12:43

Yes, that usage is correct in the Philippines. Do note, however, that in Filipino English "ma'am" is not pronounced the same way as in American English, which can lead to some confusion: it's pronounced just like "Mom" or "Mum" (more akin to British or Canadian English, though the Filipino pronunciation does not originate there—it's just a coincidence that it sounds the same).

When you hear it the first few times you might be tempted to think it's a maternal reference, but it isn't. Instead, it's used as an honorific for an older woman worthy of respect because of her professional or community position of prominence (for instance, a pastor's wife).


In typical English Missus, abbreviated Mrs., or Miss, abbreviated Ms., are used as honorifics. As StoneyB says, if using Ma'am as an honorific is the convention in the Philippines, then such is correct in the Philippines. However, it is not correct in any other English-speaking country as far as I am aware.

  • 2
    A correction: at least in US English, Ms. is not considered to be abbreviation for Miss, but rather a separate honorific. Miss connotes that the woman being addressed is unmarried; Ms. is intended to carry no connotations about marital status. They are also pronounced differently: Miss has a hard s sound, while Ms is pronounced Mizz. – Nate Eldredge Jun 21 '14 at 5:22
  • Neat! Did not realize that. – Dispenser Jun 21 '14 at 5:24
  • I notice nowadays that children (around here in the US) are taught to use something pronounced "miss" for all women, married or not. But I do not know if the spelling is "Ms" or "Miss". – GEdgar Mar 30 '18 at 10:48

I find no fault with the Filipino usage: Ma'am is a dialectal form of Madam.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.