What is the difference between Senorita and Senora?
Hello, and welcome to the forum. Traditionally, this has been the distinction: señorita is like 'miss' in English; it is used for unmarried women. Señora is used for married women.
However, Spanish has been having something of a gender equality awareness awakening recently, and, at least in some places, there is a trend toward calling all adult women señora.
I would in general follow the recommendations above unless the woman has a professional title, for example doctora or profesora. My Spanish professor said to our class, "I don't want to hear anyone call me Senora Rizo because I am a Dr. and I'm not making anybody enchiladas." Lol she was hilarious.
I live in a border town near Mexico and I am called Señora even though I've never been married. I don't say anything because I am in my mid-40s and most people would have reasonably assumed I am married or have been in the past. I don't want to get in any personal or embarrassing conversations with people I don't know well. I was told to use Señora for most older women, but I think it would be safer to use Señorita if you're not sure because fewer people are offended if you make that mistake.
I was told by some men who were from Mexico that you're only a Señorita if you've never had sex and they would use that as a way to ask if a woman was a virgin. (Are you a Señorita or a Señora?). Also, I've heard that some people use Señora as an insult toward unmarried young women. I guess it presumes they're promiscuous. I had a friend as a teenager get extremely offended when she got in an argument with someone and they called her "Señora".
Señora is your boss, a lady that is older than you, or someone you respect.
Señorita is younger than you, possibly attractive and someone you respect.
When we lived in SA, my wife had been married for quite a few years and had two kids, not babies. Nonetheless she was always addressed by her hairdressers and in most shops (stores in US speak) as "señorita". Don't ask me why.
Cuando viviamos en Sud America mi señora habia sido casado por varios años, ademas tenía dos hijos que no eran guaguas sino niños escolares. No obstante, su peluquera, las empleadas de las varias tiendas y otros siempre la llamaban "señorita". No se porque.
I imagine you already got your answer on the "señora versus señorita" count, but just to warn you, from my experience living a culturally Spanish-speaking place, many are touchy about the "Miss" versus "Mrs." thing. I grew up in a place in the U.S. where it was generally accepted that you use "Miss" with anybody you didn't know to be polite, with adult ladies (even married ones) you knew if they were older than you but you still considered them somewhat young (i.e. younger than your grandmother), and one used "Mrs." either to an older lady (with her last name of course) or in more formal settings (i.e. a married school teacher, of course).
My experience, however, in a Spanish-speaking place, is that they are much stricter about the married versus not married thing. Don't be caught calling a married lady señorita. She might not be upset, but her husband will be. To be safe, if you don't know, just call them "señora." Also, like someone already said, Miss, Mrs., and Mr. aren't as generally used in Spanish-speaking places. If they have a title related to their profession, use it instead. Doctor, Professor, even Teacher, may be better than Mr. or Ms.... Hope this very long explanation helped...
Señora = Married woman or young lady or a woman who has bore children.
Señorita = a young lady or an older woman who has not bore children.
I am glad you asked that question. You have had several replies with different slants on this and I assume all of them (or most) have some validity. What I have long wondered is how to address a spanish speaking "mature" woman that you do not know. This might happen if you need to address an employee in a hotel or just want to extend a polite good day. I have always guessed that using "señora" was the "safest" thing but, that is just my guess. Maybe the language and cultural experts on this forum could comment on this.
Like so many things you just know it when you see it. jajaja.
But seriously the answers above give good guidance.
Please, please, please note! The ñ is conviently placed at the bottom of the box to be clicked on and inserted when you ask a question or answer one. It's not a letter with an accent mark, its an actual letter different than "n". I don't think native speakers and writers ever leave it out.
¡Gracias, señoritas, señoras y señores!
This is actually a comment on the comment to the previous answer but, I think the comment field is limited to the number of characters and I might not have been able to get everything in a comment. There are several ways to enter spanish characters on a computer. Probably the simplest and one that I use a lot is to enter the characters as ASCII code. This is done by holding down the Alt key and entering numbers on the number keypad (Num Lock must be on). The characters are entered with the following Alt-Num combinations: á - Alt-160. é = Alt-130, í - Alt-161, ñ - Alt-164, ú - Alt-163, ¿ - Alt-168, ¡ - Alt-173, É - Alt-0201. There are other ASCII combinations that do the same thing but with more key strokes. This, incidentally, is a bother on laptops without a separate number keypad because you have to constantly switch the keyboard from normal to number keypad with the function key. I believe the procedure is somewhat different on a Mac but, you can find that on the internet easily enough. If you use spanish characters a lot there are other methods that involved reconfiguring your key board. If you use an English keyboard, one is to change the keyboard to English-International. In Windows this in done in Control Panel - Clock, Language, Region-->Change Keyboards. Then the special characters are entered by striking the single apostrophe key and then the English letter key that you want to be the special spanish letter. For example. for ñ you would strike the apostrophe key and then n. With this configuration, you must strike the apostrophe key and then the space bar if you want the single apostrophe.