This article is about a German word. For the 1957 song, see Fraulein (song). For the 1958 film, see Fräulein (1958 film). For the 2006 film, see Das Fräulein.
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Fräulein (German: ˈfrɔɪlaɪn ( listen)) is the German language honorific previously in common use for unmarried women, comparable to Miss in English. Fräulein is the diminutive form of Frau, which was previously reserved only for married women. Frau is in origin the equivalent of "Mylady" or "Madam", a form of address of a noblewoman. But by an ongoing process of devaluation of honorifics, it came to be used as the unmarked term for "woman" by about 1800. Therefore, Fräulein came to be interpreted as expressing a "diminutive of woman", as it were implying that a Fräulein is not-quite-a-woman. By the 1960s, this came to be seen as patronising by proponents of feminism, and during the 1970s and 1980s, the term Fräulein became nearly taboo in urban and official settings, while it remains an unmarked standard in many rural areas. This process was somewhat problematic, at least during the 1970s to 1980s, since many unmarried women of the older generation insisted on Fräulein as a term of distinction, respecting their status, and took the address of Frau as an offensive or suggestive of extra-marital sexual experience.
Since the 1970s, Fräulein has come to be used less often, and was banned from official use in West Germany in 1972 by the Minister of the Interior. Nowadays, style guides and dictionaries recommend that all women be addressed as Frau regardless of marital status, particularly in formal situations. A newsletter published on the website of the German dictionary Duden in 2002, for instance, noted that women should only be addressed as Fräulein when they specifically request this form of address.
Despite the less common everyday use nowadays, Fräulein has seen a revival in recent years as a vogue term, especially in popular culture.
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