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a woman who maintains a brothel; madam.
a prostitute.
Archaic. a procuress.
Historical Examples

If your worship will take order for the drabs and the knaves, you need not to fear the bawds.
Measure for Measure William Shakespeare

All that seems wanting to complete the list is that we should turn pimps and bawds.
The Robbers Friedrich Schiller

Where are the mothers that play the bawds to their own daughters?
The Visions of Dom Francisco de Quevedo Villegas Dom Francisco de Quevedo

All fortune-tellers are bawds, and, for that reason, are so much followed by people of fashion.
The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, Volume I Tobias Smollett

The allusion to Tarsia suggests some notice of the practice of the Roman bawds when they had secured a virgin.
The History of Prostitution William W. Sanger

Ladies who employ men in the offices which should be reserved for their sex, are they not bawds in effect?
Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson

He consists of double beer and fellowship, and his vices are the bawds of his thirst.
Character Writings of the 17th Century Various

noun (archaic)
a person who runs a brothel, esp a woman
a prostitute

a complicated word of uncertain history. First attested late 15c., “lewd person” (of either sex; since c.1700 applied only to women), probably from baude-strote “procurer of prostitutes” (mid-14c.), which may be from Middle English bawde (adj.) “merry, joyous,” from Old French baud “gay, licentious” (from Frankish bald “bold” or some such Germanic source). It would not be the first time a word meaning “joyous” had taken on a sexual sense. The sense evolution shading from “bold” to “lewd” is not difficult; cf. Old French baudise “ardor, joy, elation, act of boldness, presumption;” baudie “elation, high spirits,” fole baudie “bawdry, shamelessness.” The Old French word also is the source of French baudet “donkey,” in Picardy dialect “loose woman.”

The second element in baude-strote would be trot “one who runs errands,” or Germanic *strutt (see strut). But OED doubts all this. There was an Old French baudestrote, baudetrot of the same meaning (13c.), and this may be the direct source of Middle English baude-strote. The obsolete word bronstrops “procuress,” frequently found in Middleton’s comedies, probably is an alteration of baude-strote.


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