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12 / 02 / 2007

FEMININE NOUNS (-ESS): meaning and examples

Good morning. I hope everybody had an outstanding weekend.

Today we look at the English suffix: -ess

Use: it can be added to the end of some nouns to make feminine nouns when referring to women (manager --> manageress), or with animal nouns to make nouns referring to a female animal (lion --> lioness).

In old-fashioned English, professions such as actor, author and waiter were only used with men, and actress, authoress and waitress were used with women. However, things are different today.

IMPORTANT: Today the use of -ess to "feminise" words is generally considered obsolete and politically incorrect, and instead we use actor, author, waiter, etc. with both men and women. However, some words (i.e., actress) are still used with the feminine suffix more than other words.

Example 1:
Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jeane Mortensen) wasn't a great actress, but she was one of the most famous women of the 20th Century. 

Example 2 (on an airplane):
Jack: Honey...can you call the stewardess (azafata de vuelo). I need some more water. 
Christine: Oh Jack...that sounds so old-fashioned! I'll call the flight attendant, if you don't mind, NOT the stewardess.
Jack: Okay dear. Do you always have to be so politically correct?

Example 3:
A lot of people know the author Paul Auster, but few know his wife, Siri Hustvedt. However, I think she is a better author than Paul Auster.

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I hope you have a fantastic day.

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