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How do you say "young woman" without using the word "young" and without using overly slang words such "broad" or "chick"?

I am trying to translate word from my native language, which is Hebrew: בחורה

The main motivation is to respectfully compliment a middle-aged woman by referring to her as young woman.

The backstory to this question is a conversation, in Hebrew, that I had with my wife and a middle aged woman that we just met. At one point in the conversation I turned to my wife and said: so what this <בחורה==young woman in Hebrew> here is saying is that so so and so. Our new acquittance took it really well and considered it as a great compliment. I am curious if there such a word in English that has the same meaning, that is if I use it in the same context, would be received as well.

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    This is borderline; it might get a better response on InterpersonalSkills.SE. 'Honey' and 'sweetie pie' are out. 'Angel' has a wider register acceptance. Mar 14 at 16:58
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    Your question is desperately in need of a full sentence as an example - preferably with some more context, e.g. Formal or informal? How do you know her? How do well you know her? What is her status in life. etc? -- The importance of context in English cannot be overstated
    – Greybeard
    Mar 14 at 17:28
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    I can't think of a modern, non-slang alternative other than girl, which many consider inappropriate for an adult. Mar 14 at 17:30
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    A 40ish-year-old woman is precisely a woman. It's hardly an insult.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 14 at 17:44
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    It is puzzling why this question is closed. The posted boilerplate reason is clearly not the real reason, as the question made it very clear what the word would be used for. That was so even before the recent edit by the OP, and it's even clearer now.
    – jsw29
    Mar 14 at 21:59
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You need to realise that very rarely you can translate word by word. Regarding you’re alternatives: If you called my granddads “broad” she wouldn’t have an idea what you meant. My daughter on the other hand would slap you really hard. It’s not slang, it is a rather outdated but severe insult. “Young woman” is perfectly fine to describe a young woman.

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    But whimsical (and thus needing a certain level of intimacy) to use to address a middle-aged one. Mar 14 at 17:49
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    I recall hearing “Four gentlemen and a great, great broad” as an introduction to a Janis Joplin song, so it must have been borderline acceptable in some contexts in the 60s Mar 14 at 18:30
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    Your granddad is a woman?
    – Barmar
    Mar 15 at 18:00
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If you can't use girl, you could try

lass n

  1. a girl or young woman
    TFD Online

This is probably borderline archaic or dialect-dependent, however, but other terms are that as well: maid, maiden, lassie, colleen, etc.

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  • '[Not] overly slang' must include '[not] borderline archaic or dialect-dependent'. Mar 14 at 17:46
  • Good answer for the title, less so for a 40-year-old madame (see question body).
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 14 at 18:10
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    Unless the woman and you are both British and from the North, lass is simply not going to work. Suggesting "lass" is misleading the OP.
    – Greybeard
    Mar 14 at 18:11
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    @Mari-lou: I think any attempt to refer to or address an older woman by a youthful appellation is going require finesse to be carried off without giving offense or occasioning mirth. But perhaps the OP has the requisite skill.
    – Robusto
    Mar 14 at 18:18
  • @Greybeard: See above.
    – Robusto
    Mar 14 at 18:18
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Your purpose is this:

the main motivation is to respectfully compliment a middle-aged woman by referring to her as young woman

The answer is that what you’re trying to do can’t be done without a non-negligible chance of offense to the woman.

You mean well by this, and there are some women who enjoy being labeled young (“miss”, “girl”, “lass”, etc.) but there are a significant number of women who don’t see this as being respectful, instead seeing it as being superficial, ageist, or infantilizing.

See also:

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The OP is looking for an English term that satisfies the following conditions.

(1) Its literal meaning is young woman.

(2) If a man used the term to refer to a woman who is not, in fact, young, it would be understood that the man is playfully pretending to be mistaken about the woman’s age, and thereby complimenting the woman on her youthful appearance. This would be understood even if the term is so used in passing, in the midst of a conversation about something entirely different.

(3) The woman would welcome the compliment, even if she is only a casual acquaintance of the man.

The first condition is easy to deal with. Obviously, as has already been pointed out in the comments, one term that has that meaning is young woman. Some people may prefer young lady. The term girl which was, until a few decades ago, widely used in a broad sense that included young women, continues to be so used in some settings. The term lass, featured in another answer on this page is also available, as its use in the works of literature and films has made it familiar to English speakers outside its native region.

It is (2) and (3) that pose problems for the OP. In many present-day English-speaking societies, compliments of that sort are not as common as they may be elsewhere, so it is quite possible that the woman will not understand the point of referring to her as a young woman, particularly if that is done in the context of an exchange that focuses her attention on something else. Moreover, it is possible that a woman from a present-day English-speaking society will be made uncomfortable by a remark that directs attention to her appearance, when it comes from a relative stranger, even if she understands that it was intended as a compliment.

It is also possible that an English-speaking woman would receive the compliment that the OP would make by referring to her as a young woman in the same way as his Israeli acquaintance. The risk of the compliment being misunderstood or backfiring would, however, be much greater.

What is important to appreciate, for the purposes of this site, however, is that this is not due to English language lacking the resources for making such compliments, but rather to the cultural background against which the intended compliments are made and received. The OP's problem is not that he doesn't know the correct word to accomplish his purpose, but that the cultural background of many English-speaking societies makes that purpose itself problematic, regardless of what words are used to accomplish it. Further analysis of that cultural background would, however, be outside the scope of this site.

To see that this is not a matter of language, imagine, for a moment, that the conversation that the OP describes had been, for some reason, conducted in English but with the same participants: chances are that the compliment would have been received the same way as in Hebrew. On the other hand, if the conversation had been conducted in Hebrew but the woman in question were a visitor from the United States who learnt some Hebrew, it is quite possible that she wouldn’t understand the compliment or would be unsure how to take it.

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