I asked what she dreamed. Jenny Tier Bishop laughed and ruffled my wet hair. "You," she said, "are an inquisitive little boy." "Yes, ma'am," I said. These sentences are from "Dreams Do Come True" by Jim Bishop. I'd like to know what the full form of "ma'am" is in the sentence. Is it an English word or Irsh word or other? Thanks in advance.

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Ma'am comes from the word "madam."


also maam, 1660s, colloquial shortening of madam (q.v.). At one time the ordinary respectful form of address to a married woman; later restricted to the queen and royal princesses or used by servants to their mistresses.

  • Madam is significantly more widely used than that - at least in Britain where we hardly ever say Ma'am. Customers in posh shops, restaurants etc are still usually called Sir or Madam.(Though the Queen is happy to be addressed Ma'am*, as long as it rhymes with ham and not farm) – WS2 Oct 18 '15 at 12:17
  • In the US (and I wonder if maybe this is common knowledge elsewhere), a madam primarily is the proprietor of a brothel, even though people wouldn't normally take offense if it used as a title of respect. They would, however, find it overly formal, more suited to a state dinner than a department store transaction. – Steven Littman Oct 18 '15 at 12:53

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