a woman who acts in stage plays, motion pictures, television broadcasts, etc., especially professionally.

Origin of actress

First recorded in 1580–90; act(o)r + -ess

Usage note

See -ess. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for actress

Contemporary Examples of actress

Historical Examples of actress

  • He did not like me because I was thin, but he was interested in me because I was going to be an actress.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • However that may be, it is certain that the actor is jealous of the actress.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • No one was ever less an actress than I am, and you know that.

  • One had been blackmailed by an actress after an affair and railroaded her off the Earth.

    The Adventurer

    Cyril M. Kornbluth

  • And they clapped their hands as the actress went to her seat.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine

British Dictionary definitions for actress



a woman who acts in a play, film, broadcast, etc
informal a woman who puts on a false manner in order to deceive others


Use of the word actress to refer to a female who acts is old-fashioned. The modern gender-neutral form is actor
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for actress

1580s, "female who does something;" see actor + -ess; stage sense is from 1700. Sometimes French actrice was used.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper