"Dear" in British English


When a British English speaker refers to somebody he/she has never met before as "dear" (like for example in "thank you, dear"), should "dear" be considered as some synonyme of "madam", neutral tool to express politeness, or is it used to express some sort of sympathy towards the person? 

asked Jan 10 '13 at 02:04 Simona Mikelionyte New member

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