Informal madam: used in direct address
Used as a form of polite address for a woman: Will that be cash or charge, ma'am?
- A contracted form of madam (chiefly used as a form of address).
- In British English, ma'am is an abreviation of madam. less frequently used in modern English it must be used when addressing the queen more than once: after first addressing her as Your Majesty, one uses Ma'am. The term is also sometimes still used in the police service when addressing female superiors. Both ma'am and its full form, madam, are only rarely (far less commonly than in the US) used to express respect outside of these circumstances.
- In American English, the full form madam is limited as a form of address to certain highly formal environments, while ma'am is current in everyday speech. Ma'am is not often used in the other sense of madam. It is used as a polite form of address toward (for example, but not strictly limited to):
- a female stranger presumed old enough to have children, particularly if older than the speaker
- a female customer one is serving
- one's mother
- a female teacher or school official in a school which emphasizes formality
- a female superior in the military
- The usage of yes, ma’am connotes deference, particularly by one who has been scolded for misbehavior, but also in more friendly circumstances.
- In the southern and southwestern US, "ma'am" is used to address any female, regardless of her age or position.
(third-person singular simple present ma'ams, present participle ma'aming, simple past and past participle ma'amed)
- To address (someone) using "ma'am".
Contraction of madam.