A gentlewoman (from the Latin gentilis, belonging to a gens, and English 'woman') in the original and strict sense is a woman of good family, analogous to the Latin generosus and generosa. The closely related English word "gentry" derives from the Old French genterise, gentelise, with much of the meaning of the French noblesse and the German Adel, but without the strict technical requirements of those traditions, such as quarters of nobility.

By association with gentleman, the word can refer to:

  • A woman of gentle birth or high social position;
  • A woman attending a great lady (as, for example, the character in William Shakespeare's Macbeth called only 'Gentlewoman', who attends Lady Macbeth). This might be a court appointment as the female equivalent to a valet de chambre.
  • A woman with good manners and high standards of behaviour.[1][2]

At courtEdit

From the time of Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I, the title Gentlewoman of Her Majesty's Bedchamber was borne by ladies serving the Queen of England, later becoming Lady of the Bedchamber.

United States CongressEdit

'Gentlewoman' also has a local usage in the United States House of Representatives, referring to a female member of the House, as in "the gentlewoman from [state]".[3]

Some uses in literatureEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Gentlewoman at
  2. ^ Gentlewoman at
  3. ^ Gentlewoman Archived 2013-10-16 at the Wayback Machine at
  4. ^ O., Bereola, Enitan (17 December 2013). Gentlewoman : etiquette for a lady from a gentleman. Mobile, AL. ISBN 978-0615927770. OCLC 867789790.
  5. ^ Cox, Michael, editor, The Concise Oxford Chronology of English Literature, Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-19-860634-6
  6. ^ The English Gentlewoman at

External linksEdit

  • Maurice Keen, Heraldry and the Medieval Gentlewoman at