young lady

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Letter with the address "Fräulein"

Fräulein ( Frl. For short ) was the formal form of address for unmarried women until the 1970s (in the GDR until the end of the 1980s) , regardless of their age. The women's movement criticized the diminutive "Fräulein" (from woman ). In 1972 the West German Ministry of the Interior decreed that adult female persons were to be addressed as “woman” in federal authorities.

Comparable terms for unmarried women are still used today in other languages, such as English Miss , Dutch Juffrouw , French Mademoiselle , Spanish Señorita , Italian Signorina , Swedish Fröken , Greek despinis or Bulgarian gospóžica .

Word history

Era "man / woman - man / woman (mistress)"

In New High German before the 19th century, the salutation “Miss” was restricted to persons of class. " Frau " or Middle High German (mhd.) " Frouwe " was not a gender designation (for this one had " woman " or mhd. "Wîp"), but the designation of a noblewoman , as well as " Herr " not a salutation for everyone, but for the liege lord . Accordingly, the “Fräulein” referred to the princely daughter and the “ Junker ” - the “young gentleman” - the princely son, while the “ Jungfer ” or “ Jungmann ” referred to young women and men regardless of their social status. This original meaning of "Miss" still appears z. E.g. in Goethe's Faust when Faust addresses Gretchen with the words (verses 2605 f.):

My beautiful lady, may I dare
To offer my arm and company to her?

Since Gretchen is a person of lower class, this is to be understood as a deliberately gallant form of address with which Faust wants to "charm" Gretchen according to all the rules of ( courtly ) art. She replies as factually correct as ungalant (verses 2607 f.):

I'm neither a lady nor beautiful
Can go home unguided.

Later Marthe said of Gretchen (verses 2905 f.):

Think, child, for anything in the world!
The Lord thinks you are a lady.

"Man / Woman" era

Salutation Mr versus Mrs or Miss

Job advertisement in the Bozner Nachrichten from 1917: “Miss” wanted for raising children

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the form of address Fräulein established itself primarily for working women (e.g. employees in department stores, waitresses and teachers), since female employment was strictly limited to the time before marriage.

In the German Reich from 1880 to 1919 there was even a legal regulation (a ministerial decree) that female teachers had to be unmarried, namely female teacher celibacy . The Miss Meier gang of Johanna Spyri's novel Heidi is a well-known representative of the type "Miss Teacher". From the time of teachers celibacy occasionally even regional encountered custom is to declare teachers as Miss to call and to talk like that.

Until 1957, § 1354 BGB gave husbands in West Germany the right to forbid their wives to work. Such regulations explain the stubborn correlation between gainful employment and celibacy in thinking, which has long existed with regard to women in German-speaking countries and which is expressed in the designation Fräulein for working women.

Time of derogations

“Fräulein” in conversation with British soldiers, July 16, 1945

During the National Socialist era , the practice of naming all women, regardless of their age, as "Misses" if they were never married: In 1937, the Reich Minister of the Interior gave all mothers of illegitimate children permission to apply to the competent police authority as "Frau "After this permission was entered in the ID card . From May 1937 onwards, the uniform salutation “woman” was mandatory for public service traffic. During the Second World War , this was also granted to unmarried mothers of adopted children and fiancés of war dead.

After 1945 the “doitsche Froilain” was discovered by the American GIs stationed in Germany and the “Fräulein” became a foreign word in English. Since then, the proverbial saying of the “German Miss Wonder ” has existed. Wolfgang Koeppen set a literary memorial to this type in his novel Tauben im Gras in 1951 (“the Fräulein” is one of more than thirty characters in this novel).

Establishment of the term "woman" and displacement of the term "Fräulein"

In 1869, the Prussian Minister of the Interior, Friedrich zu Eulenburg, issued a decree according to which the predicate “ woman ” was awarded as a title or royal favor. In 1919, the Prussian State Minister Wolfgang Heine changed the use of the designations "Frau" and "Fräulein" from 1869 (MB 298), because he saw the lack of a legal basis for this and it no longer corresponded to the living conditions and facts.

In the Weimar Republic, since 1919, the salutation “woman” was no longer used as a civil status designation, so that even unmarried people could call themselves that in non-official everyday life.

From 1937 onwards, according to a circular issued by the Reich and Prussian Minister of the Interior, unmarried women were allowed to call themselves “women” without the need for official approval in individual cases. With the circular of the Reich Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick in 1941, women had to apply to the registry office for permission to call themselves “women”. The permit had to be entered on the identification card. Without an entry in the ID card, the designation as "woman" was prohibited. A new application had to be made every time they moved. This also affected illegitimate mothers and single adoptive mothers.

In the GDR , unmarried women were allowed to use the designation "woman" without permission from 1951.

“The double salutation woman - miss is nothing more than the official classification and evaluation of the entire female sex according to its declared relationship to the man. Civil status is a private matter for men, but a matter of public interest for women. "

- Letter from a reader of the CDU party leaflet “Union in Germany” from 1952

In 1954, the parliamentary group of the German Party (DP) requested, among other things, the repeal of the regulations on the official designation of an unmarried woman. On December 17, 1954, Elisabeth Lüders, the FDP member of parliament, made a plea for the abolition of the "Fräuleins" in the plenary hall of the German Bundestag. In 1955, Federal Interior Minister Gerhard Schröder (CDU) revoked the Prussian and National Socialist reference decree by circular and decreed that every female person who wished to do so must be referred to as "woman" in official letters:

“The term 'woman' is neither a civil status designation nor a part of the name, nor is it a title that should or could be bestowed. Nor is she the same as 'wife'. Rather, every unmarried female person is free to call themselves 'woman'. This option is increasingly being used. It is therefore justified and advisable to address unmarried women in official dealings with 'women' if they so wish. "

On January 16, 1972 (announced on February 16, 1971) the German Federal Ministry of the Interior under Hans-Dietrich Genscher ( FDP ) decreed that the word Fräulein should not be used in federal authorities:

“It is time to take account of the equality of men and women and the contemporary self-image of women of their position in society in official language. It is therefore no longer appropriate to address female adults differently in official language than has always been the case with male adults. [...] In official usage, the salutation 'woman' must therefore be used for every female adult. "

The women's movement criticized from the 1970s, the diminutive "Miss" because of the social values and ideas that come in to bear one hand solve the neuter gender (similar for the woman ) undesirable associations from (as if females things were), on the other hand The use of the distinction between miss and woman promotes the view that a female person can only be considered an adult woman when she marries, while a young unmarried man is signaled that one is called " master " by calling him " master " consider him a full-fledged man. Because the Junker (bachelor) had no comparable word history up to the bourgeois era and the Jungmann has only survived as a swear word for “ Hagestolz ”, not as a formal category.

The criticism of traditional language use was systematized in the Guidelines for Avoiding Sexist Use of Language , which four linguists published in 1980. They recommended the complete abandonment of the use of the word "Fräulein"; Anyone who does not follow this recommendation must be considered a " sexist ". In 1993, the German Commission for UNESCO agreed with this point of view: "The principle of linguistic symmetry means that wherever women and men are mentioned, both are to be treated equally." Whenever a male person says "Mr." is appropriate as a salutation or designation, there is no reason to deny a female of the same age the salutation or designation "woman" in the same situation.

In the GDR, the use of the term Fräulein for unmarried women was common until the reunification .

Current usage

Nowadays, the form of address and the designation “Fräulein” for young women in the German-speaking area are rarely used in correspondence and in formal dealings, but they are in the German-speaking parts of Belgium. The word “Fräulein” has survived as a form of address for a female waitress in a café or restaurant, but this use is also becoming less common in Germany - like its male counterpart “Herr Ober !”. Instead of these designations, an informal “ Hello !”, “Sorry!”, “Order, please!” Or “Pay, please!” Or, if known, the form of address by name is becoming more and more common .

The Japanese German scholar Saburo Okamura was able to prove that although the word “Fräulein” is used relatively rarely today, there has been no decline in the use of the word since the 1990s. He found that out in an empirical study in which he evaluated all editions of the Süddeutsche Zeitung in terms of language statistics . Okamura gives several reasons for his finding:

  • The word “Fräulein” is quoted (when mentioning book or film titles or when referring to historical statements).
  • It is a return to traditional polite forms of interaction without any discriminatory intent.
  • The term often refers to minors with a pronounced female physiognomy .
  • The word is used creatively in order to convey facts that are difficult to express in any other way (example: “We are missing a Miss Nikola Kiefer”); the term mostly contains connotations such as “(very) young”, “attractive”, “energetic” and “enthusiastic”.
  • Occasionally, however, the word “Fräulein” is also used to devalue those so designated (not being married as an alleged symptom of immaturity or lack of seriousness).

The Duden has a newsletter out of 3 June 2002, that those emphasizing on with Miss to be addressed, this wish should be fulfilled. As a rule, in such cases, when speaking and writing in the 3rd person singular, the grammatically “correct” pronouns “es” and “sein” are not used (as, for example, with the Brothers Grimm), but the words “ she ”and“ her ”(example:“ Miss Meyer left her handbag; she was probably in a hurry ”).

In 2008 the Institute for Demoskopie Allensbach asked Germans about their acceptance of so-called taboo words, including Fräulein . 47 percent of those surveyed said they used Fräulein themselves. 44 percent said they didn't use it but didn't mind either. Only 7 percent found the use annoying or repulsive.

Iris Berben described it in 2012 as “a little private joy that I'm still a lady”. She regrets that no one dares to call her that today. The emancipation of women “went too far” on this point.

The District Court of Frankfurt am Main ruled in judgment 29 C 1220/19 that a tenant is not entitled to cease and desist if she is referred to by her very old landlords in notices on the stair cleaning plan in the hallway with the address "Miss" or "Miss". This designation is not defamatory, but in the overall view of the circumstances, the behavior is at best unfriendly and characterized by a lack of willingness to compromise.

Further use of the term "Fräulein"


Place names:


Movie title:


Operetta, theater:



  • Annette Brauerhoch: Fräuleins and GIs: history and film history. Stroemfeld, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-86109-170-4 .
  • Sophie Cohen: Feminine Forms of Address: A Sketch of Linguistic History. In: The woman. Volume 26, 1919, pp. 147-151.
  • Anne Quinn Cramer: "Frau" or "Fräulein": How to address a woman in German. In: Die Klassenspraxis / For the teaching of German. Volume 9, Issue 1, 1976, pp. 28-29.
  • Theodor Matthias: Wieland's essay: Demoiselle or Miss. In: Journal for German Word Research. Volume 5, 1903/1904, pp. 23-58.
  • Andreas Nentwich: The Fräuleins. In: Andrea Köhler (Hrsg.): Little glossary of disappearing: From drive-in cinema to double-declutching: Loud obituaries. Beck, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-406-49467-6 , pp. 92-96.
  • Senta Trömel-Plötz , Ingrid Guentherodt, Marlis Hellinger , Luise F. Pusch : Guidelines for Avoiding Sexist Use of Language. In: Linguistic Reports . No. 69, 1980, pp. 15-21; Reprint in Magdalene Heuser (Ed.): Women - Language - Literature: Scientific research approaches and didactic models and experience reports for German lessons (=  ISL information on language and literature didactics . Volume 38). Schöningh, Paderborn et al. 1982, ISBN 3-506-74088-1 , pp. 84-90 ( searchable in Google book search).

Web links

Wiktionary: Miss  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Beatrix Novy: The salutation "Miss" has been abolished. In: Calendar sheet (broadcast on DLF ). February 16, 2021, accessed February 16, 2021 .
  2. Ordinance of the Reich Ministry of Justice No. 2697. In: Reichshaushalts- und Besoldungsblatt , June 21, 1937
  3. Angelika Gardiner-Sirtl: Equal Rights? What the women have achieved - and what remains to be done . Mosaik-Verlag, Munich 1982, p. 84f.
  4. RMin.Bl.iV, 1937, p. 885
  5. RMin.Bl.iV, 1941, p. 1181
  6. ↑ Order on the use of the designation "woman" by unmarried women from December 15, 1951 (MBl. P. 140).
  7. a b Kerstin Schenke: Virtual exhibition: The lady in office - 40 years of the BMI's circular “Use of the designation 'woman'”. In: Retrieved November 27, 2020 (materials and background information on the BMI circular of January 16, 1972).
  8. Marlis Hellinger , Christine Bierbach: One language for both sexes: guidelines for a non-sexist use of language . Published by the German Commission for UNESCO , Bonn 1993, ISBN 3-927907-32-4 (with foreword by Irmela Neu-Altenheimer; PDF: 37 kB at
  9. ( Memento from July 14, 2012 in the web archive )
  10. IfD survey 10019 ( Memento from December 30, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  11. Iris Berben: likes to be a "Fräulein" ., October 17, 2012
  12. Cleaning plan for the stairwell: Designation of a tenant as "Miss" becomes a case for the justice system, Süddeutsche Zeitung of September 4, 2019, accessed on September 18, 2019
  13. Tenant fails with a "Miss" complaint at the local court, Frankfurter Rundschau, from August 31, 2019, accessed on September 18, 2019