the letter S, s.
something shaped like an S: The road wound among the mountains in great esses.
Other definitions for -ess (2 of 2)
a suffix forming nouns that are applied to only women or girls: countess; goddess; lioness.
Nouns in -ess denoting occupation or profession are rapidly disappearing from American English. Airlines now refer to cabin personnel as flight attendants, not stewards and stewardesses. The gender-neutral term server and the masculine waiter are now widely used for women in the food service industry, rather than waitress. In the arts, authoress, editress, poetess, sculptress, and similar terms are either rejected or discouraged and almost always replaced by author, editor, poet, sculptor. Nouns in -ess designating the holder of public office are hardly ever encountered in modern American usage. Women holding the office of ambassador, mayor, or governor are referred to by those titles rather than by the older, gender-marked ambassadress, mayoress, or governess. ( Governess has developed a special sense in relation to childcare, but this use is less common in the United States than in Britain.) Among other terms almost never used in modern American English are ancestress, directress, instructress, manageress, oratress, postmistress, and proprietress. If the gender of the performer is not relevant to performance of the task or function, the label in -er or -or is now widely used as a gender-neutral term.
Some nouns in -ess are still used with little or no objection, including: actress (though many women in the acting profession prefer to be called actors ), enchantress, heiress (largely in journalistic writing), hostess (but women who conduct radio and television programs are referred to as hosts ), seamstress, seductress, sorceress, and temptress. Among older -ess terms that are now considered not only dated but offensive are Jewess and Negress.
Owing to its multiple meanings and varying usages throughout history, the word mistress is particularly complex. In the sense of one who has acquired skill or expertise in something, mistress has given way entirely to the masculine or gender-neutral master : She is a master at interpreting financial reports. Some of its other meanings have simply fallen out of common use, such as the mistress (“female head”) of a household, the mistress (“female controller”) of a family fortune, or the mistress (“female owner”) of a horse. In the historical context of chattel slavery, the “female owner” sense is retained for a slaveholder’s wife, daughter, or female heir. In modern American English, the primary meaning of mistress, still in common use, is “a woman who, most often secretly, has an ongoing sexual relationship with, and sometimes is financially supported by, someone who is openly married to, engaged to, or living with another person.” See also -enne, -ette, -trix.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use ess in a sentence
The iron “flow batteries” ess is building are just one of several energy storage technologies that are suddenly in demand, thanks to the push to decarbonize the electricity sector and stabilize the climate.We’re going to need a lot more grid storage. New iron batteries could help. | Dawn Stover | February 23, 2022 | MIT Technology Review
Still, Barrymore maintained that for all of her Girls Just Want to Have Fun-ess, she works hard to earn that right.
But Maud, did you learn the reason of Mr. ess—that is Mora's folks—well—why they came up yesterday?A Fortune Hunter; Or, The Old Stone Corral | John Dunloe Carteret
"Very well; then mis'ess's niece can't pass," said the turnpike-keeper, closing the gate.Far from the Madding Crowd | Thomas Hardy
Mis'ess Yeobright, not ten minutes ago a man was here asking for you—a reddleman.Return of the Native | Thomas Hardy
"'Tis very lonesome for 'ee in the heth tonight, mis'ess," said Christian, coming from the seclusion he had hitherto maintained.Return of the Native | Thomas Hardy
If they smash the tables of the law, it is in kid-gloves, and with a delicious odor of ess bouquet about them.That Boy Of Norcott's | Charles James Lever
British Dictionary definitions for -ess
indicating a female: waitress; lioness
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