One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A young foreign person, typically a woman, who helps with housework or child care in exchange for room and board.
female servant, maidservant, housemaid, parlourmaid, serving maid, lady's maid, chambermaid, maid-of-all-work, domestic, drudge, menialView synonyms
- ‘Every woman boss depends on au pairs, nannies, cleaners, cooks and women who do the ironing.’
- ‘I wandered along the landing and there at the bottom, because I had a little baby then, were our two Spanish au pairs.’
- ‘Although au pairs are legally allowed to work 25 hours a week, Jana found herself rather busier than that.’
- ‘The number of women employing au pairs, window cleaners and gardeners has increased by only 7.9 per cent in the past five years.’
- ‘‘Nannies and au pairs don't have the same authority as you, and you need to keep close to adolescent changes, ‘she said.’’
- ‘One day, you see a want ad in your local newspaper: ‘Agency seeking young women to work as au pairs.’’
- ‘In other cases, women answered advertisements by foreign tour operators or employment agencies looking for au pairs, models, housekeepers and waitresses.’
- ‘A non-commercial association of agencies within the UK working to ensure a high standard of services to families and au pairs.’
- ‘As more women have sought full-time careers, various alternative forms of domestic assistance have developed, consisting of armies of contract cleaners, childminders, nannies and au pairs.’
Late 19th century: from French, literally ‘on equal terms’. The phrase was originally adjectival, describing an arrangement between two parties paid for by the exchange of mutual services; the noun usage dates from the 1960s.
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