What Is The Gender-Neutral Form Of Mr. And Mrs.?

Check boxes for Mr., Mrs., Ms. and one left blank

When addressing strangers, authority figures, and in formal situations, it is considered polite to use an honorific, or title, to address them. The most frequently used honorifics are gendered male or female, which may not always be appropriate. In this article, we are going to review the most common honorifics, the alternative Mx., and how and when to use these titles.

What is the gender neutral term for Mr., Mrs., and Ms.?

The most commonly used gender-neutral honorific is Mx., pronounced [ miks ] or [ muhks ]. The first recorded use of Mx. was in 1977, where it was suggested as a less-sexist alternative to the traditional Mr., Mrs., and Miss. These forms are not only highly gendered, but they also link a woman’s status to whether she is married or not.

The honorific Mr., from master, is used for men regardless of marital status. The titles Mrs. and Miss, from mistress, are used for married and unmarried women, respectively. To reduce the emphasis on marriage, the alternative Ms. was coined in the 1950s for women regardless of marital status.

You can learn more about all of these forms and where they come from in the article “Mr., Mrs., Miss, and Ms.: What They Mean And How To Use Them.”

Just as Ms. solved the sexist problem that a woman was described based on her relationship to men, the form Mx. addressed the gendered nature of titles more generally. Although it was coined in the 1970s, it didn’t gain traction until the 2000s as there came to be greater mainstream acceptance of nonbinary or gender-nonconforming people (see A Language Of Pride: Understand The Terms Around LGBTQ Identity).

Mx. is now used as a preferred title for many who identify as neither man nor woman. This is not its only use, however. Like other gender-neutral forms of address, Mx. can also be useful when addressing an audience whose gender is unknown. A good example of this is on forms that use a title (think: Mx. _____).

While Mx. is the most common gender-neutral title, it isn’t the only one. Another alternative for nonbinary or gender-noncomforming people is Misc., short for miscellaneous, from the Latin for “mixed.” Similarly, the alternative title M. does away with all the gendered information that comes after the M in the other titles and is a simple way to express a variety of genders or lack of gender. Another option is Ind., short for individual. As with all titles, pronouns, names, and so forth, one should be mindful to use the language that a person uses for themselves.

Along those lines, professional titles are gender-neutral and may be preferred by people of any gender. The most common of these is Dr., short for doctor, which is used for Ph.D. holders and medical doctors. Captain and coach are also common titles that can be held in a variety of settings. People in the military can be referred to by their ranks, as in General or Sergeant. Members of the clergy in many faiths are also typically referred to by specific honorifics, such as Reverend or Rabbi.

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What does Mx. stand for?

Mx. is a riff on the classic gendered titles Mr. and Ms. It keeps the M and swaps the gendered element of these terms for the gender-neutral X. The letter X has historically been used as a symbol for the unknown or indescribable. In this way, it is perfect for a gender-neutral honorific. Mx. shows respect while leaving the gender unknown or unarticulated. Other examples of words that use the letter X as an indication of gender-nonconformity that you may have come across are folx and womxn.

The purpose of using these titles, whether it’s Mr., Ms., Mx., or anything else, is to convey respect. (They are called “honorifics,” not “ruderifics,” after all.) Because that’s the goal, whatever title someone chooses for themselves is the one you should use for them. And whether you are nonbinary, gender nonconforming, or simply just not interested in being called a gendered title, if Mx. or any of these alternatives don’t feel fitting to you, you can always coin your own!

Learn about "demigender" and other gender terms you may not know.

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