Many women are offended by this use, and it too is becoming less common. When circumstances make it relevant to specify sex, woman rather than lady is used, the parallel term being man: Men doctors outnumber women doctors on the hospital staff by more than three to one. The medial -f- disappeared 14c. Used commonly as an address to any woman since 1890s.
An approach that is increasingly followed is to avoid specifying the sex of the performer or practitioner. The use of lady as a modifier lady doctor; lady artist suggests that it is unusual to find a woman in the role specified. Except in chivalrous, literary, or similar contexts Lady, spurn me not , this singular is now usually perceived as rude or at least insensitive: Where do you want the new air conditioner, lady? Although lady is still found in phrases or compounds referring to occupation or the like cleaning lady; saleslady , this use seems to be diminishing. As forms of address, both nouns are used in the plural Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your cooperation , but only lady occurs in the singular.
Lady of pleasure recorded from 1640s. . Applied in Old English to the Holy Virgin, hence many extended usages in plant names, place names, etc. Ladies' man first recorded 1784. Not found outside English except where borrowed from it. Person or a sex-neutral term can be substituted for lady, as cleaner for cleaning lady and sales associate or salesclerk for saleslady.
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