-ess

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From French -esse, from Late Latin -issa, from Ancient Greek -ισσα (-issa).

Suffix[edit]

-ess (plural -esses)

  1. Suffix appended to words to make a female form.
    actress
    authoress
    goddess
    lioness
    princess
    shepherdess
    waitress

Usage notes[edit]

  • As in Romance languages, the masculine form is always used when referring to both males and females. However, note the unusual word marquess which is masculine.
    Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart were very popular actors.
    Who would like to be an actor after high school?
  • This suffix tends to be regarded as sexist and as such is starting to fall into disuse; a single, gender-neutral term is preferred by many even though it is a less specific term.
    Glenda Jackson is a famous actor.
    Glenda Jackson is a famous actress. More specific language signaling that Glenda is a female.
  • Depending on etymology, other feminine affixes are used; see synonyms.

Synonyms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

References[edit]

  • -ess” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary (2001).