I'm writing a novel set in 1568 Europe. If a man addresses an unmarried young woman respectfully in French, what title would he use? According to the New York Times, "mademoiselle" came into use around 1610.


  • 2
    Correct about the 17th c. for use for unmarried women. Before the 17th c. it was used for women of the nobility but without a title, married or unmarried. Need to browse through16th lit. There might be differences according to the social class.
    – None
    May 9, 2017 at 18:17
  • @Laure Thanks. Interesting usage change. May 10, 2017 at 11:58
  • 2
    Just a side remark: 16th century french is barely understandable for today's French people. Cf. "Les Essais" by Montaigne: fr.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Essais/Livre_I/Chapitre_5 May 12, 2017 at 12:03

3 Answers 3


To translate the above response, albeit using conventional translation sources(google in this instance) so some things may be lost, though it's better than nothing as I saw the original poster cited they could not read the response:

Thank you mlwacosmos for the original response.

Damoiselle: female name 13th century dameisele, late 9th century, popular Latin dom (i) nicella, diminutive of domina: lady. 1. Formerly. In the Middle Ages, young noblewoman or wife of a damsel: young lady (late Middle Ages). Married woman of the gentry and the bourgeoisie. Note: the word is still used out of archaism and to evoke the Middle Ages. 2. Right (old). Unmarried woman.

Demoiselle: female name, around 1100 Damisele. 1. early 13th century. Formerly. Until the 18th century, young noblewoman or married woman of small nobility: Lady. Beginning of the 19th century, young bourgeois girl, family daughter. 2. Single woman.

Mademoiselle: feminine noun XVIth century of my (adjective possessive) and demoiselle 1. Title given formerly to certain women of condition. at. Title of the eldest daughter of the king's brothers or uncles b. (1534) Title given to noble women without title, "adjoining the middle-class Madame and the quality Madame" (Furetière) c. (1846) Pejorative and old. A miss: a girl from good society. 2. Modern a. (17th century) Title given to young girls and single women. b. (18th century) To designate the daughter of the house.


For women of the nobility it was "damoiselle".


  • Since she isn't nobility, what would he use? May 10, 2017 at 23:02

You can read this (I dont know if you speak French) :

Damoiselle : nom féminin XIIIe siècle dameisele, fin IXe siècle, latin populaire dom(i)nicella, diminutif de domina : dame. 1. Anciennement. Au Moyen-Age, jeune fille noble ou femme d'un damoiseau : demoiselle (fin du Moyen-Age). Femme mariée de la petite noblesse et de la bourgeoisie. Remarque : le mot s'emploie encore par archaïsme et pour évoquer le Moyen-Age. 2. Droit (vieux). Femme non mariée.

Demoiselle : nom féminin, vers 1100 Damisele. 1. début XIIIe siècle. Anciennement. Jusqu'au XVIIIe siècle, jeune fille noble ou femme mariée de petite noblesse : Dame. Début XIXe siècle, jeune fille de la Bourgeoisie, fille de famille. 2. Femme célibataire.

Mademoiselle : nom féminin XVIe siècle de ma (adjectif possessif) et demoiselle 1. Titre donné anciennement à certaines femmes de condition. a. Titre de la fille aînée des frères ou des oncles du roi b. (1534) Titre donné aux femmes nobles non titrées, "mitoyen entre la Madame bourgeoise et la Madame de qualité" (Furetière) c. (1846) Péjoratif et vieux. Une mademoiselle : une jeune fille de la bonne société. 2. Moderne a. (XVIIe siècle) Titre donné aux jeunes filles et aux femmes célibataires. b. (XVIIIe siècle) Pour désigner la fille de la maison.

  • I can't read French. I know a few ordinary words, and some from cooking, and that's it. Sorry! May 10, 2017 at 15:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.