Ladies First: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
November 4, 2023

The expression "ladies first" is a chivalrous adage suggesting that women should be given priority or be treated with particular courtesy. It often refers to allowing women to go ahead or be served before men, as in entering a room, receiving a service, or in line for something. Originating from codes of respect and politeness, this phrase is traditionally used as a gesture of gallantry, though its appropriateness and interpretation can vary across cultures and situations. In some modern contexts, it can be seen as outdated or patronizing; in others, it remains a sign of respect.

In short:

"Ladies first" is an expression indicating that women should be given priority or preference in certain situations.

What Does "Ladies First" Mean?

When someone says "ladies first," they suggest that women should go ahead or be given preference over men. This can be seen in various situations, such as:

  • Entering or leaving a room
  • Getting in or out of a vehicle
  • When serving food
  • In lines or queues

This phrase is not just about the physical act of allowing women to go first. It often carries a deeper meaning, emphasizing respect and courtesy towards women.

Where Does "Ladies First" Come From?

The phrase "ladies first" is a chivalrous expression that has its roots in social etiquette and customs that date back to medieval times, although its exact origin is not definitively known. The concept of chivalry, which originated in the medieval era, emphasized virtues like courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women. Knights were often taught to treat women with deference and respect, and this cultural norm has carried through to modern times in various forms, including the phrase "ladies first."

10 Examples of "Ladies First" in Sentences

Here are some sentences where "ladies first" is used to show its various applications:

  • As they approached the door, John stepped back and said, "Ladies first."
  • At the buffet, Mike gestured towards the table, saying, "Ladies first."
  • He always says "ladies first" but then rushes ahead; saying is one thing, doing is another.
  • She chuckled when he opened the car door for her, saying, "Ladies first, I presume?"
  • As the young girl stood hesitantly at the door, an elder man smiled and said, "Ladies first."
  • When the elevator arrived, he gestured for her to enter with a smile, "Ladies first."
  • "Ladies first," he said, handing the newly released book to her before taking a copy for himself.
  • The tour guide always made sure to say, "Ladies first" when leading the group into a new room.
  • Even in competitions, some people still believe in the principle of "ladies first."
  • "Which door should we take?" she asked, to which he replied with a smile, "Ladies first, so you choose."

Examples of "Ladies First" in Pop Culture

  • In the film Titanic, during the evacuation, there was a clear emphasis on first getting women and children onto the lifeboats.
  • The song "Ladies First" by Queen Latifah and Monie Love celebrates women's empowerment in hip-hop.
  • The TV show Gentleman Jack has various instances where the protagonist, a woman, challenges traditional gender norms but also encounters moments where "ladies first" is showcased.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Ladies First"

  • Allow the ladies to proceed
  • Women get the precedence
  • Women before men

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Ladies First":

  • What does the idiom "ladies first" mean?

It suggests that women should be given preference or priority in various situations, emphasizing respect and courtesy towards them.

  • Where did the phrase "ladies first" originate?

It's rooted in age-old chivalrous traditions where men showed respect and deference to women.

  • Is "ladies first" still relevant today?

While it's seen as a gesture of respect in many cultures, it can sometimes be viewed as old-fashioned or even patronizing in more progressive settings.

  • Is the phrase used globally?

Yes, "ladies first" is understood and used in many cultures around the world, though the context may vary.

  • Are there situations where "ladies first" might not be appropriate?

Yes, in certain professional or competitive scenarios, treating everyone equally without giving preference to gender might be more appropriate.

  • How does pop culture view "ladies first"?

It varies. Some media portray it as a sign of respect, while others might challenge or criticize it.

  • Is there a song named "Ladies First"?

Yes, Queen Latifah and Monie Love have a song called "Ladies First" celebrating women's empowerment.

  • Can the phrase be seen as condescending?

In some contexts, especially if used patronizingly, it might be perceived that way.

  • Does "ladies first" only apply to doors and entrances?

No, it can be applied in various situations like serving food, queues, and more.

  • Do other languages have a similar phrase?

Many languages have similar idioms or phrases emphasizing respect for women, though the exact wording might differ.

Final Thoughts About "Ladies First"

"Ladies first" emphasizes courtesy, respect, or chivalry. It's more than just a phrase; it reflects societal values and attitudes towards gender roles.  Whether it's a gentleman holding a door, a host offering the first choice, or a friend jestingly letting someone go ahead in line, "ladies first" underscores a gesture of politeness or deference towards women.

Here's a quick wrap-up:

  • It emphasizes respect and courtesy towards women.
  • Rooted in chivalrous traditions.
  • Used in various social and cultural situations.

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