1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dame
DAME (through the Fr. from Lat. domina, mistress, lady, the feminine of dominus, master, lord), properly a name of respect or a title equivalent to “lady,” now surviving in English as the legal designation of the wife or widow of a baronet or knight and prefixed to the Christian name and surname. It has also been used in modern times by certain societies or orders, e.g. the Primrose League, as the name of a certain rank among the lady members, answering to the male rank of knight. The ordinary use of the word by itself is for an old woman. As meaning “mistress,” i.e. teacher, “dame” was used of the female keepers of schools for young children, which have become obsolete since the advance of public elementary education. At Eton College boarding-houses kept by persons other than members of the teaching staff of the school were known as “Dames’ Houses,” though the head might not necessarily be a lady. As a term of address to ladies of all ranks, from the sovereign down, “madam,” shortened to “ma’am,” represents the French madame, my lady.
“Damsel,” a young girl or maiden, now only used as a literary word, is taken from the Old French dameisele, formed from dame, and parallel with the popular dansele or doncele from the medieval Latin domicella or dominicella, diminutive of domina. The French damoiselle and demoiselle are later formations. The English literary form “damosel” was another importation from France in the 15th century. In the early middle ages damoiseau, medieval Latin domicellus, dameicele, damoiselle, domicella, were used as titles of honour for the unmarried sons and daughters of royal persons and lords (seigneurs). Later the damoiseau (in the south donzel, in Béarn domengar) was specifically a young man of gentle birth who aspired to knighthood, equivalent to écuyer, esquire, or valet (q.v.). The damoiseau performed certain functions and received training in knightly accomplishments in the domestic service of his lord. Later again the name was also used of nobles who had not been knighted. In certain seigneuries in France, notably in that of Commercy, in Lorraine, damoiseau became the permanent title of the holder. In England the title, when used by the French-speaking nobility and members of the court, was only applied to the son or grandson of the king; thus in the Laws of Edward the Confessor, quoted in Du Cange (Glossarium, s.v. Domicellus), we find “Rex vero Edgarum ... pro filio nutrivit et quia cogitavit ipsum heredem facere, nominavit Ethelinge, quod nos Domicellum, id, Damisell; sed nos indiscrete de pluribus dicimus, quia Baronum filios vocamus domicellos, Angli vero nullos nisi natos regum.” Froissart calls Richard II. during the lifetime of his father the Black Prince, le jeune Demoisel. The use of damoiselle followed much the same development; it was first applied to the unmarried daughters of royal persons and seigneurs, then to the wife of a damoiseau, and also to the young ladies of gentle birth who performed for the wives of the seigneurs the same domestic services as the damoiseaus for their husbands. Hence the later form demoiselle became merely the title of address of a young unmarried lady, the mademoiselle of modern usage, the English “miss.” At the court of France, after the 17th century, Mademoiselle, without the name of the lady, was a courtesy title given to the eldest daughter of the eldest brother of the king, who was known as Monsieur. To distinguish the daughter of Gaston d’Orléans, brother of Louis XIII., from the daughter of Philippe d’Orléans, brother of Louis XIV., the former, Anne Marie Louise, duchesse de Montpensier, was called La Grande Mademoiselle, by which title she is known to history (see Montpensier, A. M. L., Duchesse de).