madam or madame

Madam or Madame? Which is Correct?

Madam and Madame are considered to be polite ways to address women. While the difference seems to only be in the spelling, it is also in the pronunciation, meaning, and usage. One of the main differences between these two words is where they are most commonly used.

Madam is used to address women and madame is used to address a married woman that speaks French. They are pronounced differently, which will help you remember which to use and when.


Madam is considered to be a polite way of addressing a woman. It is most often used in the contracted form, ma’am. The word doesn’t have anything to do with marital status, but it is mostly associated with older women if you don’t know their name.

Since it is mostly associated with older women, it is very possible to accidentally offend someone by calling them madam.

Madam is also used to address a recipient in a letter or email if you know they are female but aren’t aware of their name. In addition, madam can also be used to address a female in a particular position such as Madam Vice President or Madam Speaker.

Madam is much more common in the United States and not so common in the U.K.

Excuse me, madam, are you ready to order?

Madam Chairman is scheduled to speak later this afternoon.

You can follow me this way, madam.

Madam, are you finished?


Madame is used in the French language and translates to my lady in English. Madame is a respectful way to address a French woman that is married. It is considered to be the equivalent of Mrs.

You can also use madame to address an older French lady regardless of marital status. Unlike madam, madame can be used with or without a surname.

Madame Curie was the most famous woman scientist.

That Madame Foster is a very clever woman.

There is a mold of Madame Fournier’s hand in her office.

Remembering the Difference

Madam and madame are incredibly similar, making it hard to make sure you are using the right one. Madam is most common in American English while madame is mostly used in the French language.

Madam is used only when you don’t know the name of the woman you are referring to. Madame can be used to refer to a woman if you know their name or if you don’t. It is most commonly used for married French women or older French women.

Madame or Mademoiselle?

Both madame and mademoiselle are part of the French language and therefore only used by French speakers. Traditionally, Madame is meant for married women and mademoiselle is for unmarried women.