etymology - Origin of "milady"

  • Rikon

    Until a few months ago, I had always assumed this was "my lady". Is this anything more than an odd contraction of "my lady"? I couldn't find much on the etymology of this.

  • Answers
  • simchona

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, milady emerged in 1778 that partially came from French:

    Partly < French milady , title used when addressing or speaking of an English lady of high rank (1727 in Voltaire; 1754 as milédi ) < English my lady (see lady n. 3a), and partly representing a colloquial pronunciation of my lady (see above). Compare Italian miledi (18th cent.; < French).

    This first definition was:

    Originally, representing the usage of foreign (esp. French) speakers: a form of address to or title for an English (occas. French) noblewoman or an Englishwoman of wealth and influence, usually substituted for the person's name.

    This was gradually adopted by the English, so it was not solely a contraction of "my lady". Similarly, milord came from French as well:

    < French milord (1610 or earlier in form milord ; 1552 in Middle French in form milourt with reference to an English nobleman (Rabelais); c1480 in form millourt with sense ‘nobleman, rich man’; also in form milor (1634 or earlier)) < English my lord (see lord n. 15; compare milord , milorde as occas. spellings of my lord in early modern English).

  • Evan Cordell

    Yes, milady comes from "my lady".

    Milady (from my lady) is an English term of address to a noble woman. It is the female form of milord.

    And here's some background on milord:

    In the nineteenth century, milord (also milor) (pronounced "mee-lor") was well-known as a word which continental Europeans (especially French) whose jobs often brought them into contact with travellers (innkeepers, guides, etc.) commonly used to address Englishmen or male English-speakers who seemed to be upper-class (or whom they wished to flatter) – even though the English-language phrase "my Lord" (the source of "milord") played a somewhat minor role in the British system of honorific forms of address, and most of those addressed as "milord" were not in fact proper "lords" (members of the nobility) at all.

  • Related Question

    etymology - Origins of the word "mother"
  • Mike Chamberlain

    Apologies in advance for this question being only indirectly related to the English language, but I find it fascinating.

    I note with interest that the English words "mother" and "mama" have similar sounding equivalents in almost all languages, even those that appear to have no historical recent relationship.

    Not even mentioned in that link is the Mandarin word "māmā", a language I always assumed had no relationship with English whatsoever.

    This suggests to me that "mother" / "mama" could be one of the oldest surviving words, belonging to some lost parent language from which most modern languages derive.

    My questions are:

    1. Is this theory remotely plausible, or just fanciful thinking on my part?
    2. Are there any other "universal" words like this? (Could "OK" be considered such?)

  • Related Answers
  • Manoochehr

    According to wiktionary:

    From Middle English moder, from Old English mōdor, from Proto-Germanic *mōdēr (cf. East Frisian muur, Dutch moeder, German Mutter), from Proto-Indo-European *méh₂tēr (cf. Irish máthair, Tocharian A mācar, B mācer, Lithuanian mótė).

    That's abosultely right. Proto-Indo-European is the hypothetical ancestor language or protolanguage of most European and Indian languages.

    That's why in many languages of the same origin the word "Mother" is used with trivial variations. I'm don't have a listing of the words you're looking for.

    Note that some words might have been used in other languages because of reasons other than language origins. For example many Arabic words are used by Muslims in middle east in countries like Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, etc. Or some other words like okay are gaining popularity in different languages and get used by many people. But as RegDwight mentions for the word okay this is a case of borrowing a word.

    The word Mama or Papa are one of the easiest words that can be produced or repeated or by babies. Maybe that's one of other reasons which has made the words being used in most of the languages around the world.

    To get more information about Proto-Indo-European language visit here.

    To get more information about the list of Proto-Indo-European languages visit here.

  • Colin Fine

    As others have said, "mother" is a word that we can trace back to Proto Indo-European.

    However, the occurrence of similar words all over the world is not reliable evidence of genetic connection between languages, since there is such a strong alternative hypothesis (a baby's first sounds, and sucking sounds).

    I'm not saying all languages are not related, just that this is not evidence for it. There is a body of opinion that the ultimate relationship of all languages has been demonstrated, but it's a pretty marginal view in the linguistics community (see Proto-World). My own belief, which I think is quite widely held, is that we are unlikely ever to obtain enough evidence either to establish or to refute the hypothesis.

    Incidentally, Georgian has "მამა" ("mama") for "father" and "დედა" ("deda") for "mother".

  • bye

    The word mother can be traced back cleanly to Proto-Indo-European, as can father, brother and sister -- it appears in cognate form in languages like Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, and so forth, and it may go back further.

    Mama and its cognates are among the easiest (and most likely) sounds for a baby to form deliberately; it has been theorised (quite reasonably) that the word arose as the result of associating meaning with a spontaneous utterance. After all, an infant is most likely going to want something from Mama when making a fuss, so why not make it mean exactly that? It wouldn't exactly take eons for something like that to spread, would it?

    Mother (or mater, matar, mère and other variants) smacks of a little more deliberation, a little more adult involvement, don't you think? It's old, no doubt about it, but it has a more precise meaning than she who feeds me, and can be used by a third party to describe a relationship.

  • nycman

    mother or the sounds 'mo' or 'ma' in those words universally originate from the primordial sound of life and existence, as held by vedic hinduism: OM.