Ways of forming the feminine gender

February 14, 2011pdf

There are three ways of forming the feminine gender.

1) By using an entirely different word.

  • Bachelor (masculine) / spinster or maid (feminine)
  • Boy / girl
  • Man / woman
  • Husband / wife
  • Father / mother
  • Brother / sister
  • Son / daughter
  • Horse / mare
  • Monk / nun
  • Buck / doe
  • King / queen
  • Cock / hen
  • Dog / bitch
  • Drake / duck
  • Earl / countess
  • Gander / geese
  • Gentleman / lady
  • Nephew / niece
  • Uncle / aunt

2) By adding a syllable (-ess, -ine, -trix etc) to the masculine gender

  • Author (masculine) / authoress (feminine)
  • Baron / baroness
  • Count / countess
  • Giant / giantess
  • Heir / heiress
  • Host / hostess
  • Lion / lioness
  • Mayor / mayoress
  • Poet / poetess
  • Priest / priestess

In the following -ess is added after dropping the vowel of the masculine ending.

  • Actor (masculine) / actress (feminine)
  • Enchanter / enchantress
  • Duke / duchess
  • Emperor / empress
  • Prince / princess
  • Tiger / tigress
  • Waiter / waitress
  • Master / mistress
  • Sorcerer / sorceress

3) By placing a word before or after

  • Grandfather / grandmother
  • Manservant / maidservant
  • Landlord / landlady
  • Peacock / peahen
  • Salesman / saleswoman
  • Washerman / washerwoman

Notes

A mayor can be a man or a woman. In British English, a mayoress is the wife of a male mayor.

Some words ending in -ess are no longer used. Examples are: authoress and poetess. Author and poet are now used for both men and women. The words steward and stewardess are being replaced by other terms like flight attendant. Note that a flight attendant can be a man or a woman.

Keep your grammar up-to-date!
Includes Grammar Guide (PDF)