-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.
    Examples:
    actress
    duchess
    goddess
    lioness
    princess
    shepherdess
    stewardess
    waitress

Usage notes[edit]

  • Professions ending in -ter or -tor change to -tr when this suffix is added.
    A female sempster is a sempstress; a female actor is an actress.
  • Professions ending in -e loose an e when this suffix is added.
    A female prince is a princess.
  • 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 some 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).