An Indian Portmanteau word created from ma'am and sahib. It was used in times past to refer to married European women, who were due respect but could obviously not properly be addressed as sahib.

It is becoming more common to spell this word without the hyphen, 'Memsahib', but as this word is not in general use anywhere in the world, you will most often see it in older writings.

Mem"-sa`hib (?), n. [Hind. mem- sAhib; mem (fr. E. ma'am) + Ar. çAhib master. See Sahib.]

Lady; mistress; -- used by Hindustani-speaking natives in India in addressing European women.

 

© Webster 1913

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