Lady (Anglo-Saxon, hlafdige; Old Eng., levedy), a title used as the correlative of lord (A. S. hlaford), or, in common speech, as the correlative of gentleman. It is supposed to have signified originally "bread-giver " (Goth. hlaif, loaf, and dian. to distribute), or " she who takes care of the bread" (A. S. half, loaf, and weard, to look after, to care for, to ward). The primary notion entertained of a chief or lord was that he was the provider of the food consumed by his family, and his lady had the care or distribution of it. llorne Tooke's derivation of the word from hlifian, to lift, i. e., one raised to the rank of her lord, is untenable. As a title of honor in England, it belongs to peeresses, and to the wives of peers and of peers by courtesy, being prefixed in such cases to the peerage title. The daughters of dukes, marquises, and earls are designated by courtesy by the title, prefixed to their Christian and their surname. The wives of baronets receive it by courtesy, their legal designation being dame, and it is generally extended, also by courtesy, to the wives of knights of every degree.
In Saxon times the queen was occasionally termed 8cs hlqfdig, the lady, which is still preserved in the phrase "our sovereign lady the queen." In common usage the term is applied to any woman of the better class, and in the United States it has so lost its significance as to be given indiscriminately to almost any well dressed woman. - "Our Lady" is a title frequently applied to the Virgin Mary, generally in connection with some attribute, as " Our Lady of Mercy." Lady chapel, in cathedrals, is a chapel dedicated to the Virgin, and is usually placed east of the altar. - Lady day, in the calendar, is the 25th of March, being the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. In England and Ireland it is one of the regular quarter days, on which rent is made payable.