Origin of ess
Definition for ess (2 of 2)
Origin of -ess
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. 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, sex-marked ambassadress, mayoress, or governess. ( Governess has developed a special sense in relation to childcare; this use is less common in the U.S. than in Britain.) Among other terms almost never used in modern American English are ancestress, directress, instructress, manageress, oratress, postmistress, and proprietress. If the sex of the performer is not relevant to performance of the task or function, the neutral term in -er or -or is now widely used.
Some nouns in -ess are still current: actress (but some women in the acting profession prefer to be called actors ); adventuress; enchantress; heiress (largely in journalistic writing); hostess (but women who conduct radio and television programs are referred to as hosts ); millionairess; murderess ; seamstress; seductress; sorceress; temptress; and waitress (the substitute term server has not been widely adopted).
Jewess and Negress are usually considered offensive today. Mistress has given way to master in the sense of one who has acquired expertise in something: She is a master at interpreting financial reports. See also -enne, -ette, -trix.
Examples from the Web for ess
Laundress is formed by adding -ess to launder or laundre, the contracted form of lavender as here used.Chaucer's Works, Volume 3 (of 7)|Geoffrey Chaucer
That regarded as the standard or regular termination of the feminine, -ess (French esse, Low Latin issa), the one most used.An English Grammar|W. M. Baskervill and J. W. Sewell
“Ess,” said the mite at this, thinking his testimony was appealed to, and nodding his head affirmatively.Teddy|J. C. Hutcheson
"Ess," said the little boy, and grasping hold of Fairy's frock he willingly trotted along by her side.The Dorrance Domain|Carolyn Wells
"'Ess," was Jerry's reply, for she still adhered to her first pronunciation of the word.Gretchen|Mary J. Holmes
British Dictionary definitions for ess
suffix forming nouns
Word Origin for -ess
Word Origin and History for ess
fem. suffix, from French -esse, from Late Latin -issa, from Greek -issa (cognate with Old English fem. agent suffix -icge); rare in classical Greek but more common later, in diakonissa "deaconess" and other Church terms picked up by Latin.