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Miss (a mid 17th century abbreviation of "Mistress") is a title prefixed to the name of an unmarried woman or a girl. The title is also used by a married woman who retains her maiden name, usually for professional purposes, although nowadays Ms. can be used instead. It is a polite form of address to a young woman or a woman of inferior social rank; and in British English as an address to a female teacher: 'Please, Miss...'. It is also the title given to the winner of a beauty contest, as in 'Miss World'.

'Miss' is also used in other contexts, some of which are now obsolete:

  • with surname only (e.g. Miss Doe), when addressing the eldest unmarried daughter - and it is for this reason that it was deemed inappropriate to call (Miss) Jane Austen simply 'Miss Austen', as this referred to her elder sister Cassandra
  • in the American South as a title for women in general or as addressed by servants (e.g., Miss Ellen)
  • in the plural form ("Misses") as an address to unmarried sisters (chiefly British, now obsolete)

Foreign equivalents

There are numerous equivalents to this title in other languages. Some of them are:

  • Chinese 小姐 (xiao2 jie3)
  • Danish Frøken (Frk.)
  • Dutch Juffrouw (Mej.)
  • Estonian Preili
  • Finnish Neiti (Nti)
  • French Mademoiselle (Mlle)
  • German Fräulein (Frl.)
  • Greek Δεσπινής
  • Hebrew עלמה
  • Irish Iníon or Ógbhean-uasal
  • Italian Signorina (Sig.na)
  • Norwegian Frøken (Frk.)
  • Polish Panna
  • Portuguese Menina (Mna.) or Senhorita (Srta.)
  • Romanian "Domnişoară"
  • Scots Gaelic Maighdeann(-uasal) (Mh(uas).)
  • Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian Gospođica (Gđica)
  • Slovenian Gospodična (Gdč.)
  • Spanish Señorita (Srta.)
  • Swedish Fröken (Frk.)
  • Welsh Bonesig