Madonna, Origins of Title

Q: What is the origin of the title, Madonna, for the Blessed Virgin Mary?

A: The designation Madonna (Italian) translates into English as Our Lady, and is known in other languages as Nuestra Senora (Spanish), Notre-Dame (French), Nossa Senhor (Portuguese) or Unsere liebe Frau (German). This Italian version of one of Mary's most popular titles is the work of Saint Jerome. In explaining the meaning of Mary's name he offered several versions. One of them proposes a meaning based on the Aramaic mar which means "Lord," its feminine form (which should be marta!) therefore lady. As we know, this interpretation enjoyed wide acceptance and became the usual title applied to Mary in modern languages and means lady.

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