Why do we put ress at the end of some words, like actress, mayoress and murderess, but not for others like doctress, accountantress, or teacheress?

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Why do we put ress at the end of some words, like actress, mayoress and murderess, but not for others like doctress, accountantress, or teacheress?

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8 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

In some languages such as French they do have feminine forms of titles like doctor, they they aren’t always used either.

In English at least the lack of doctress likely has to do with how long it took until women were allowed to be doctors. At that point the term was already established. Teacher may have been the opposite with the role being primarily filled with women for a long period so there was again not likely seen much of a need to differentiate.

Ultimately English vocabulary and styles can be wildly inconsistent due to terms entering usage from various other languages at various times. There is no singular authority on English so there’s not always a reason beyond that’s how the language usage occurred over time.

Anonymous 0 Comments

>Why do we put ress at the end of some words, like actress, mayoress and murderess, but not for others like doctress, accountantress, or teacheress?

Different English words come from different backgrounds: Celtic, Germanic, Latin, etc. Each of these backgrounds has a different way of altering the male form of the word to become the female form. Words ending in ER get changed to end in RESS for the female: hunter->huntress. Others use ETTE or ELLE, or INE. The suffix depends on the ending letters of the root word and on the history behind the word.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Your question has mostly been answered, but interestingly, words ending in -tor like doctor used to get -trix (yes doctrix) for the feminine form. It has mostly fallen out of use but you still see it in words like dominatrix and executrix (when drawing up a will).

Anonymous 0 Comments

In the 1970s I subscribed to “Horseman” magazine. There was a brief (write in) discussion about the wisdom of changing the name to “Horsewoman” since a majority of subscribers were, in fact, women. Of course the suggestion never got off the ground. One comment summed it all up, “Individually some of us may be horsewomen, but collectively we are all horsemen.”

Anonymous 0 Comments

Anything ending in -tor as the masculine should technically have -trix as the feminine version. But that has dramatically fallen out of favor in the modern English speaking world. So instead the masculine version is used for both male and female.

Fun fact. Bellatrix LeStrange from Harry Potter. Her name is the female of Bellator, meaning fighter/warrior.

Anonymous 0 Comments

You’ve gotten good answers on etymology, but I think a big part of the answer is that we have feminine forms of words for things that women did when gendering words was seen as important. We don’t have feminine forms of doctor, lawyer, soldier, etc. because by the time women were doing those things it would have been obviously problematic to call women lawyeress.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I thought the term actress was going out of style – I see people say actor now as a universal term – actor, person who acts.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Older forms of English kept Latin’s gender-specific suffixes -tor and -trix; tor is for males and trix is for females. A male pilot is an aviator and a female pilot is an aviatrix. A male fighter is a gladiator and a female fighter is a gladiatrix.

This contrasts with the modern system where tor is generally used for both men and women, and trix are for kids.