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dame

Line breaks: dame
Pronunciation: /deɪm
 
/

Definition of dame in English:

noun

1 (Dame) (In the UK) the title given to a woman with the rank of Knight Commander or holder of the Grand Cross in the Orders of Chivalry: Dame Vera Lynn
More example sentences
  • The Knights and Dames of the New Zealand Order of Merit took a British tradition, and gave it a distinctly New Zealand flavour.
  • She was the first and only woman appointed a Dame of the Order of Australia.
  • The two British-born stars were honoured as Dames Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
2 archaic or humorous An elderly or mature woman: a matronly dame presided at the table
More example sentences
  • As Donaldson is regarded as a divisive whipper-snapper by the elderly gents and dames on the Council, the party leader is probably safe until the autumn.
  • ‘Appalling mass of cars and charabancs… disgorging Women's Institute dames with white crimped hair and legs awry ’, he noted of Forde Abbey.
  • Everyone is upstaged by Eileen Atkins as wealthy Miss Matilda Crawley, the cantankerous dame who sponsors Becky's social ascent.
2.1North American informal A woman: a rich dame who took her husband to the cleaners
More example sentences
  • There's must be a wealthy society dame (preferably played by Margaret Dumont) who is entirely smitten with Groucho, though he walks all over her.
  • And any dame who loves ‘Babe’ and ice hockey is one I know I can trust.
  • Roxie's never going to be a towering intellect, but she's one fun dame.
2.2 (also pantomime dame) British A comic middle-aged female character in modern pantomime, usually played by a man.
Example sentences
  • He is about to have a theatrical sex change and play Widow Twankey, the pantomime dame, in Aladdin this Christmas.
  • For those who hark after the dying traditions, the disappointment at the demise of the pantomime dame is off-set by Gail Watson's appearance as a cross-gendered Peter Pan.
  • Last year, Sir Ian, 65, said his only remaining ambition was to appear in the Street - after fulfilling his other desire to play a pantomime dame.

Origin

Middle English (denoting a female ruler): via Old French from Latin domina 'mistress'.

More
  • In its earliest use dame meant ‘a female ruler’. It comes ultimately from Latin domina ‘mistress’, the root of which also gave us danger, dominate (early 17th century), dominion (Middle English), and dungeon. Dame was used as a form of address to a woman of rank from the Middle Ages, and in the 17th century became a legal title—it is now the title given to a woman with the rank of Knight Commander or holder of the Grand Cross in the Orders of Chivalry. Alongside this elevated use ran a more popular strand, where a dame was the mistress of a house or school, or any elderly or mature woman. This gave us the pantomime dame, the comic middle-aged character usually played by a man, who makes her first appearance in print in the early 20th century. Dame is used in the USA for any girl or woman—as Oscar Hammerstein II told us in his 1949 song from the musical South Pacific, ‘There is nothin' like a dame’. Dam (Late Middle English) in the sense ‘mother (of an animal)’ is also from dame (the sense ‘a barrier’ (Middle English) is Germanic). See also baby, damsel

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