Is it possible to use the word lady instead of miss to show respect? And if I use it in front of a name, should I capitalize the word lady? For example, lady Mary Jane or Lady Mary Jane?

I know that 'Lady' is used this way with the names of female members of the nobility. But if it's not a noblewoman, and I just need to show respect, is it correct?

  • 1
    One can do this. But if it is not normally done, It will seem strange. In England, if that woman holds certain hereditary title, then she may (and should) be addressed as "Lady". But do not do it with anyone else just to show respect.
    – GEdgar
    Jan 22, 2022 at 18:34
  • 1
    English doesn't really have an elaborate system of formal/informal/superior/junior titles. Using one's bare name is the neutral form of address in informal settings, though tone of voice and other contextual cues can play a part as well. Using a title at all (Ms/Mr/Dr/etc) conveys respect. Calling someone "Lady Jane" when they don't have the appropriate background is a bit like calling someone "President user437545" when user437545 isn't the president.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 22, 2022 at 19:00
  • You can use it with a friend or relative (and it sometimes is used in a jokey fashion, particularly by people with a fondness for Ren Faires, chivalric romances, etc), but using it with a stranger would be odd. You can say what you like to people you know well.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 22, 2022 at 22:06
  • Lady is used in this way (before the given name) for daughters of certain peers. Jan 23, 2022 at 9:00

2 Answers 2


No, you can't. Titles have long histories, and Lady has the established meaning of a woman among the nobility of nations which respect hereditary titles. When referring to a woman who is not part of the nobility of such a nation, prefer the most applicable title, e.g., Ms., Mrs., Dr., PhD, etc. for formal correspondence.


In spoken language, people might use "lady" instead of "miss" as a respectful form of address to an unknown (typically older) woman: e.g. "excuse me, lady, do you know what time it is?" instead of "excuse me, miss, ..."

However, both of these usages are old-fashioned and might be considered mildly offensive (especially when used as a form of address). Using it indirectly as a synonym for "woman" ("I saw a lady cross the street") is still old-fashioned, but less potentially problematic. In my ear it also sounds class-laden - the way a working class male (taxi driver, construction worker, etc.) would speak to an (unknown) upper class woman.

"Ma'am" (short for "madam", the female equivalent of "sir") would be less old-fashioned, although still a bit awkward - this also avoids the difficulty of categorizing the unknown person as young/unmarried ("miss") vs older ("lady"). To be honest, if I have to address an unknown woman I would probably avoid the problem entirely and address her directly. ("Excuse me, do you know what time it is?")

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