• Ladling out soup.
  • Maker of Bread?
  • M.E. lafdi, lavede, ladi, from O.E. hlæfdige "mistress of a household, wife of a lord," lit. "one who kneads bread," from hlaf "bread" (see loaf) + -dige "maid," related to dæge "maker of dough" (see dey (1); also compare lord). Not found outside Eng. except where borrowed from it. Sense of "woman of superior position in society" is c.1205; "woman whose manners and sensibilities befit her for high rank in society" is from 1861 (ladylike in this sense is from 1586). Meaning "woman as an object of chivalrous love" is from c.1374. Used commonly as an address to any woman since 1890s. Applied in O.E. to the Holy Virgin, hence many extended usages in plant names, etc., from gen. sing. hlæfdigan, which in M.E. merged with the nom., so that lady- often represents (Our) Lady's; e.g. ladybug (1699; cf. Ger. cognate Marienkäfer) which now is called ladybird beetle (1704) in Britain, through aversion to the word bug, which there has overtones of sodomy. Ladies' man first recorded 1784. Etymology: Middle English, from Old English hlæÌ„fdige, from hlāf bread + -dige (akin to dæÌ„ge kneader of bread) — more at loaf, dairy Date: before 12th century LADY (0. Eng. hlaefdige, Mid. Eng. ldfdi, lavedi; the first part of the word is hldf, loaf, bread, as in the corresponding hldford, lord; the second part is usually taken to be from the root dig-, to knead, seen also in "dough"; the sense development from bread-kneader, bread-maker, to the ordinary meaning, though not clearly to be traced historically, may be illustrated by that of "lord"), a term of which the main applications are two, (r) as the correlative of "lord" (q.v.) in certain of the usages of that word, (2) as the correlative of "gentleman" (q.v.). The primary meaning of mistress of a household is, if not obsolete, in present usage only a vulgarism. The special use of the word as a title of the Virgin Mary, usually "Our Lady," represents the Lat. Domin g Nostra. In Lady Day and Lady Chapel the word is properly a genitive, representing the O. Eng. hlaefdigan. As a title of nobility the uses of "lady" are mainly paralleled by those of "lord." It is thus a less formal alternative to the full title giving the specific rank, of marchioness, countess, viscountess or baroness, whether as the title of the husband's rank by right or courtesy, or as the lady's title in her own right. In the case of the younger sons of a duke or marquess, who by courtesy have lord prefixed to their Christian and family name, the wife is known by the husband's Christian and family name with Lady prefixed, e.g. Lady John B.; the daughters of dukes, marquesses and earls are by courtesy Ladies; here that title is prefixed to the Christian and family name of the lady, e.g. Lady Mary B., and this is preserved if the lady marry a commoner, e.g. Mr and Lady Mary C. "Lady" is also the customary title of the wife of a baronet or knight; the proper title, now only used in legal documents or on sepulchral monuments, is "dame" (q.v.).
  • Wikipedia has a great summary: The word comes from Old English hlÇ£fdige; the first part of the word is a mutated form of hlāf, "loaf, bread", also seen in the corresponding hlāford, "lord". The second part is usually taken to be from the root dig-, "to knead", seen also in dough; the sense development from bread-kneader, or bread-maker, or bread-shaper, to the ordinary meaning, though not clearly to be traced historically, may be illustrated by that of "lord". ------------- if you are trying to indicate that there is sexism in the original term, note that the word "Lord" also came from the word for "bread".

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