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Dame is the female equivalent of the honour of knighthood in the British honours system and several other countries such as Australia (The word "damehood" is rarely used but is shown on the official British Monarchy website as being the correct term). It is the equivalent form of address to "Sir" for knights. A woman appointed to the grades of Dame Commander or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, the Royal Victorian Order, or the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire becomes a dame. Because there is no female equivalent to a Knight Bachelor, women are always appointed to an order of chivalry. Women who are appointed to the Most Noble Order of the Garter or the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle are not given the title of "Dame" but "Lady".
Formerly, a knight's wife was given the title of "Dame" before her name, but this usage was replaced by "Lady" during the 17th century.
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