View Full Version : French equivalent of "Ms."?

11-17-2003, 10:06 PM
This is the type of question that I suspect has been asked here before, but I couldn't find it using the 'search' function.

Is there a French equivalent for "Ms."? Indeed, do (m)any French speakers feel the need for such a term?


Jimmy Chitwood
11-17-2003, 10:19 PM

11-17-2003, 10:30 PM
Mlle. Is the abbreviation for it if I remember my French right

Mr. Babbington
11-17-2003, 10:37 PM
Mademoiselle means "Miss," not, "Ms.", doesn't it? I mean, Ms. is a purely English construction, to take the marital status out of the polite form of address. I am not aware of a literal equivalent.

Jimmy Chitwood
11-17-2003, 10:51 PM
Disregard my answer. Mr. Babbington is correct- I was operating, for some reason, under the assumption that Ms. was an abbreviation of Miss. Obviously, it's not.

11-18-2003, 01:10 AM
There is no equivalent to "Ms." in French. You have to choose between:

M. (Monsieur): Mr.
Mme. (Madame): Mrs.
Mlle. (Mademoiselle): Miss.

11-18-2003, 02:09 AM
"Madelle abbreviated "Mad." (http://linguistlist.org/issues/2/2-500.html) but the source mentions "But it is not officially equivalent to "Ms." "

It re-appears from time to time:1980
Le "mot-valise" Madelle apparaît, formé de Madame et Mademoiselle. Probablement en contrepartie au Ms. anglais, on employait Madelle pour éviter de faire allusion à l'état civil d'une femme. Comme les parenthèses, tirets et traits obliques, Madelle constitue une tentative "ratée", mais louable, d'élimination du sexisme linguistique. (http://membres.lycos.fr/dohuuloc/feminin.html)
(near the bottom of the page)

At least in Canada (http://ic.gc.ca/cmb/welcomeic.nsf/Contacteznous/?OpenForm), Madelle still officially exists, but I must stress that it would likely get a giggle or a "huh?" if actually used outside of the stuffiest PC or diplomatic environments.

11-18-2003, 02:23 AM
In close to 30 years on this Earth, I have not, once, heard the word Madelle.

It is not listed in any dictionary I own, and googling the word only returns tons of links to people who have Madelle for given name, eunoia's link, and this online form (http://consumerinformation.ca/cgi-bin/challengesubmit.cgi?Language=F&Session=).

Ms Macphisto
11-18-2003, 02:49 AM
I had a teacher once who insisted on being called Madelle. As all the other female French immersion teachers were content with Madame no matter what their marital status, we all still called this teacher Madame out of habit. Of course, nobody liked her and we knew that she really, really didn't like being called Madame, so we didn't make too much of an effort.

And yes, when she introduced herself as "Madelle ________", she got a lot of blank looks until she explained it.

11-18-2003, 02:57 AM
Was she a native speaker? When was that?

It seems that maybe it might have been a fad around the early 80s, but didn't stick around.

Learn something new each day, eh?

11-18-2003, 05:05 AM
At least in Switzerland, more and more official correspondance to females is labeled 'Mlle', regardless of marital status.

Some people see in this the end of the world.

11-18-2003, 06:23 AM
Thank you all.

I am not sure whether to be embarrassed or proud that my dear country, Canada, provides one of the two documented instances of the use of "Madelle" (http://consumerinformation.ca/cgi-bin/challengesubmit.cgi?Language=F&Session=).

11-18-2003, 08:30 AM
I never heard anyone use "Madelle" when I lived in France.

In French, the honorific is often a reflection of age, or appearance of age/maturity, rather than marital status. Sweet young things are called Mademoiselle. Older, more grown-up-looking; mature-in-action; or women in authoritative positions are called Madame, regardless of whether you know they are married or not. Well, there are exceptions but they're not hard to figure out. It's just common sense. If you saw a woman obviously 45 years old and you knew for a fact she was unmarried, you'd still call her Madame. If you saw a 20-year-old, you'd probably call her Mademoiselle until you found out if she were in fact married. The bank teller, unless she's a giggly sprite of about 18, is called Madame whether you know her marital status or not. If she wants you be called Mademoiselle, she'll let you know.

11-18-2003, 08:32 AM
That's supposed to say "If she wants to be called Mademoiselle . . . "

11-18-2003, 10:27 AM
Originally posted by jovan
In close to 30 years on this Earth, I have not, once, heard the word Madelle.

Same here.

Ms Macphisto
11-18-2003, 06:19 PM
Originally posted by jovan
Was she a native speaker? When was that?

It seems that maybe it might have been a fad around the early 80s, but didn't stick around.

Learn something new each day, eh?
It was in the late '80s/early '90s, and I don't think she was a native French speaker, but I'm not 100% certain any more. I hadn't even thought about that teacher in years until I read this thread.

Helen's Eidolon
11-18-2003, 09:45 PM
I was taught in high school that Madelle was the equivalent to Ms., although I have never heard it used in practice, either.

11-19-2003, 07:13 AM
If you're trying to decide what to call a particular woman, you can do it two ways, neither of which requires the political tap-dancing of a fabricated form of address:

1) Go with whichever form is less likely to give offense (my bet is on "Mlle" for its youthful implication, but at a certain age, the respect due a "Mme" is worth more than any ridiculous flattery).

2) Ask.

The creation of "Miz" is an artifact of the (50s? 60s? 70s?) and I don't know anyone who uses it anymore. The term "Mrs." doesn't carry any connotations of greater respect in my mind--at least not due to the woman's marital status--and I use "Miss" and "Mrs." nearly interchangeably unless there's a clear reason to use one or the other.

11-19-2003, 08:29 AM
I don't know anyone who uses it anymore.

Really? Nearly every woman I have encountered in a professional situation goes by "Ms.," unless she has another title, like "Dr." And we live in the same metro area.

11-19-2003, 01:30 PM
In Canada, every bit of correspondence I have received since I was about 15 was addressed to Madame, regardless of my marital status. My magazine subscription form a couple weeks ago only had checkboxes for M., Mme, and other.

All the mail I have received from France has been addressed to Mlle, although I am married. Somehow it makes me feel like a small child, given my other experiences. :)

Patty O'Furniture
11-19-2003, 01:34 PM
Just use "toots".

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: [email protected]

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Best Topics: british z night meeting soda without carbonation robin tt stop sign france backward baseball cap jatech car door funny pedophile heat gfa sex club houston bar drum magazine old lady leary trivago spokesman why do you need a gun best cut of meat for crock pot roast how long is a cotton pickin minute do employers ask for proof of degree doctor girlfriend venture brothers buried in a piano box polygraph admissibility in court gay bowling team names how to throw away a microwave why does wine get you drunk faster wall mounted tv with dvd player