This word is rarely used in modern English, ‘lady’ serving as the usual feminine form of ‘gentleman’. In former times the word was used of a woman of good birth and breeding, especially when she was an attendant on a lady of rank. ‘Call in my gentlewoman,’ says Olivia to Malvolio, in Twelfth Night ‘Gentlewoman, my lady calls,’ says Malvolio. Elsewhere in Shakespeare the vocative is used to greet or address an unknown lady. ‘Gentlewoman, good day!’ says Julia to the Duke’s daughter, in Two Gentlemen of Verona. In Romeo and juliet Mercutio greets the Nurse as ‘fair gentlewoman’. and Romeo uses the same term to her a moment later, but they are being, as the nurse well knows, ‘saucy’. Shakespeare puns on the ‘gentle’ of this word in The Taming of the Shrew (4:iii). Katherina says to Petruchio: ‘Gentlewomen wear such caps as these.’ ‘When you are gentle, you shall have one too,’ says Petruchio. ‘That will not be in haste,’ comments Hortensio to himself.

A dictionary of epithets and terms of address . . 2015.

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  • gentlewoman — [jent′ l woom΄ən] n. pl. gentlewomen [jent′ lwim΄in] [ME gentil womman] 1. Obs. a woman born into a family of high social standing; lady 2. a courteous, gracious, considerate woman 3. Historical a woman in attendance on a lady of rank ☆ 4. a… …   English World dictionary

  • Gentlewoman — Gen tle*wom an, n.; pl. {Gentlewomen}. [1913 Webster] 1. A woman of good family or of good breeding; a woman above the vulgar. Bacon. [1913 Webster] 2. A woman who attends a lady of high rank. Shak. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • gentlewoman — (n.) early 13c., from GENTLE (Cf. gentle) + WOMAN (Cf. woman) …   Etymology dictionary

  • gentlewoman — UK [ˈdʒent(ə)lˌwʊmən] / US noun [countable] Word forms gentlewoman : singular gentlewoman plural gentlewomen UK [ˈdʒent(ə)lˌwɪmɪn] / US 1) an old word for a woman who was well educated or who was from a high social class 2) American formal used… …   English dictionary

  • gentlewoman — gentlewomanly, adj. /jen tl woom euhn/, n., pl. gentlewomen. 1. a woman of good family, breeding, or social position 2. a civilized, educated, sensitive, or well mannered woman; lady. 3. a woman who attends upon a lady of rank. 4. a female member …   Universalium

  • gentlewoman — [[t]ʤe̱nt(ə)lwʊmən[/t]] gentlewomen N COUNT A gentlewoman is a woman of high social standing, or a woman who is cultured, educated, and well mannered. [OLD FASHIONED] She decided to set up a training scheme for gentlewomen who aspired to be… …   English dictionary

  • gentlewoman — noun Date: 13th century 1. a. a woman of noble or gentle birth b. a woman who is an attendant upon a lady of rank 2. a woman of refined manners or good breeding ; lady …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • gentlewoman — Synonyms and related words: Eve, Frau, abigail, amah, archduchess, au pair girl, ayah, baroness, betweenmaid, biddy, chambermaid, chaperon, companion, cook, countess, dame, daughter of Eve, distaff, domina, donna, dowager, duchess, duenna, femme …   Moby Thesaurus

  • gentlewoman — (Roget s IV) n. Syn. dame, noblewoman, woman of breeding; see lady 2 , 3 …   English dictionary for students

  • gentlewoman — gen|tle|wo|man [ˈdʒentlˌwumən] n plural gentlewomen [ ˌwımın] old use a woman who belongs to a high social class …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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