When should I use the word "ma demoiselle"and "Ma dame", ?

Is it about respecting and dealing?

Or about the status of women? I mean if she is married we say "Madame" and unmarried "mademoiselle"

Or about the age difference between the woman and the person who speaks with her.

  • I believe the difference is almost exactly the same as the difference between "Ms." and "Mrs." in English. Either is usually fine, "madame" is geared towards married women and "mademoiselle" is geared towards unmarried women, but there's also a bit of an age implication.
    – rococo
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 4:47

3 Answers 3


First you shouldn't confuse demoiselle with mademoiselle, or dame and madame. The latter words are never written a splitted way (ma demoiselle, ma dame.)

The word demoiselle is outdated and almost only used in the fixed expression demoiselle d'honneur.

The word dame (lady) is a polite alternative to femme (woman). Especially when the person is listening to you, it would be considered rude to name her as femme instead of dame.

We would rarely say Il y a une femme qui vous demande and never dis bonjour à la femme !, that rather be il y a une dame qui vous demande and dis bonjour à la dame !.

On the other hand, mademoiselle and madame are titles used to prefix names (Miss, Mrs), or to call someone (Miss, Madam, Ma'am). The obsolecence of mademoiselle for any non child female person has already been discussed. See Do French use Madame to describe non-married women? Comment s'adresser à une femme dont l'état civil est inconnu ?


It is about the woman's status just as you explained it, yet if you do not know her status, you assume "Mademoiselle" if she's young (approximately between 16 and 30 years old) and "Madame" otherwise.

  • 1
    While this might have been true 50 years ago, today calling anyone other than a child "mademoiselle" is demeaning.
    – N.I.
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 8:40
  • I actually am myself a french, so I kinda know what I'm talking about, and you made me realise that I forgot to specify that you can't use it to designate children so thanks for reminding me about it. Yet it is absolutely not inappropriate to use it while talking to a young woman which is roughly between 16 and 30 years old.
    – Sianurh
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 8:56
  • 1
    Et bien non, on peut appeler une jeune femme "Mademoiselle" tout comme on peu appeler un jeune homme "jeune homme"... Et au contraire on n'appelle pas les enfants "mademoiselle" car il y a une connotation de "gentleman" a utiliser ce mot, donc une très très légère connotation de séduction, qui est totalement inapproprié pour parler a une enfant. (Enfin, selon le contexte c'est ok, mais il faut mieux éviter)
    – Sianurh
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 8:59
  • 1
    Et bien écoute, nous ne vivons pas dans la même France dans ce cas, car où je suis il n'y a rien de dégradant a appeler une jeune femme "mademoiselle", et comme j'ai dit précédemment, certaines préfèrent même qu'on les appelle comme ceci, ce serait selon vous du masochisme ? Je n'ai jamais vu une femme s'offusquer qu'on l'appelle ainsi, dans la vie réelle...
    – Sianurh
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 9:11
  • 1
    Entant que femme de 35 ans, je trouve qu'un mademoiselle de temps en temps ça fait plaisir. En aucun cas je ne trouve cela dégradant, je prend cela plus comme un compliment, ça me rajeuni ;) Concernant les femmes plus âgées, je trouve le Mademoiselle inadapté, tout comme le Madame pour s'adresser à une adolescente.
    – Atarax
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 12:33

For an unknown woman met in the street, say 'madame'. Else, make a (wide) genuine smile and ask her what she prefers.

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