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Sort of the opposite of a euphemism but not exactly -- I am thinking how the word "lady" when used to address an adult, female stranger seems to have a negative connotation as in "Listen, lady..."

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Pejoration is when a once-neutral word picks up negative connotations over time. A word that is marked by its negative connotations can be called a dysphemism, as in the opposite of a euphemism.

But I'm not sure "lady" is either of those. You could swap in pretty much any form of address in that context ("listen, miss", "listen, ma'am", "pal", "dude") and it would have the same connotations. In other words, the negative connotation in your example isn't any property of the word; it's a property of the way it's being used, and the prosody and such surrounding it.

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  • I can guarantee you that if you call a stranger "Lady" you will get a negative or perhaps amused reaction. "Miss" or "ma'am" would work much better.
    – releseabe
    Apr 5, 2022 at 23:21
  • As Draconis mentions pejoration is the term you’re looking for, but the example you give is not related to your question.
    – user15493
    Apr 6, 2022 at 4:47
  • @user15493: what is the term for being bad at providing illustrative examples? I may suffer from this disorder, lady.
    – releseabe
    Feb 19, 2023 at 8:56

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