It’s worth noting that madam is the more common version the word among English speakers, while madame is the French spelling. Either way, both versions of this word can be abbreviated as Mme. or Mme (without punctuation). The plural abbreviation for this word is Mmes or Mmes.
What Does Madame Mean?
According to Dictionary.com, the proper definition for the word madame is as follows:
Madame [ muh-dam, -dahm, ma-; mad-uh m; French ma-dam ]
plural mes·dames [mey-dam, –dahm; French mey-dam] . (often initial capital letter)
1. a French title of respect equivalent to “Mrs.”, used alone or prefixed to a woman’s married name or title.
2. (in English) a title of respect used in speaking to or of an older woman, especially one of distinction, who is not of American or British origin.
Synonyms for Madame
The History of the Word
The formal and modern use of the word as a term to address a lady comes from the 1590’s. Madam borrowed from the French madame. This word was originally a title of respect for a woman of authority or rank; now it’s given to any older or married woman. In most cases, madam is used as an English title, and madame may be used in reference to foreign women.
When to Use the Abbreviation
One can us Mme. in situations where titles and brevity are both needed, such as in a newspaper or in a headline. It can also be used in plaques, awards, and other official documents that require space. This abbreviation can also be used when drafting a speech or performing edits on a document, essay, paper, book, novel, etc.
It’s also worth noting that ma’am is often considered an abbreviation for the word madam; however, this isn’t entirely true. The origin of the word ma’am comes from the late 1600’s and is more of a slang term or contracted form of madam, rather than an outright abbreviation. Some linguists may disagree. Ma’am is used as a term of respect for any older woman in American English.
Examples of the Word and Abbreviation in Context
“Oh, monsieur, I was not expecting you at the ball tonight!” exclaimed the French woman. Her friend responded, “I am happy to be here, madame.”
The abbreviation for mademoiselle is mlle., and the abbreviation for mesdames is mmes.
Mme. Richards will not attend the event.
When the prime minister and his wife rose, I bowed to him and took his wife’s hand. “Madame Kelter, it is a pleasure.”
If you’re not sure about that woman’s marital status, you should not address her as Madame Hughes.
I made out the name above the return address: Mme. Florence Johnson.
The invitation was addressed to Madam President.
Mmes. Fredericks and Lyon will both be attending the gala.
Kevin Miller is a growth marketer with an extensive background in Search Engine Optimization, paid acquisition and email marketing. He is also an online editor and writer based out of Los Angeles, CA. He studied at Georgetown University, worked at Google and became infatuated with English Grammar and for years has been diving into the language, demystifying the do's and don'ts for all who share the same passion! He can be found online here.