Origin: ME -esse, -isse < OFr -esse < LL -issa < Gr
See ess in American Heritage Dictionary 4
Origin: Middle English -esse
Origin: , from Old French
Origin: , from Late Latin -issa
Origin: , from Greek. Usage Note: Many critics have argued that there are sexist connotations in the use of the suffix -ess to indicate a female in words like sculptress, waitress, stewardess, and actress. The heart of the problem lies in the nonparallel use of terms to designate men and women. For example, the -or ending on sculptor seems neutral or unmarked. By comparison, sculptress seems to be marked for gender, implying that the task of sculpting differs as performed by women and men or even that the task should typically be performed by a man. For occupational titles, the use of -ess has been almost completely replaced by recently formed gender-neutral compounds such as flight attendant and letter carrier or by the -er/-or forms. The Usage Panel finds use of the -or suffix to refer to women perfectly acceptable. Ninety-five percent of Panelists approve of sculptor in the sentence The gallery is exhibiting work of sculptor Barbara Hepworth. Sculptress is far less accepted; sixty-five percent reject it in the sentence Georgia O'Keeffe is not as well known as a sculptress as she is as a painter. • A few words ending in -ess, such as goddess and giantess, have long been established in the literature of religion and mythology and are unlikely to be construed as sexist when used in these contexts. See Usage Notes at man, mistress.
Learn more about ess