Help for Students of
Gender of Nouns
authoress (or author)
NOTES. -The ending -ess comes through the French from the Latin
ending -ix. (See below, 2.)
1 Duchess is from Fr. duchesse.
2 Marchioness from late Latin marchio, marchionissa.
3 Sempstress (seamstress) and songstress, see below, No. 2 '3).
Note. Many feminine forms besides the above are occasionally to be met with, especially in our older authors: victoress, or victress (Spenser, Shakspeare, Jonson) offendress (Shakspeare) tyranness (Akenside). But the present tendency of the language is to reduce the number of such words by using the masculine form as common, as in the case of author, poet, elector (except when used as a sovereign title). In the case of official titles the feminine form is carefully preserved. Governor = ruler is common : governess == instructress.
2. A few isolated instances of other feminine endings occur:-
(1.) -trix, in a few Nouns taken directly from the Latin: as,-
(2.) -en, an old feminine suffix of which only one pure English example remains : vix-en (0. E. fixen ; Germ. fuchsin), she-fox; hence, a spiteful woman.
To this head belong also-
hero heroine (Greek)
landgrave landgravine (German)
margrave margravine (German)
comedian comedienne (French)
Note. Land-gravine, Mar-gravine: German -grafin. The suffixes -en, -in, -ine, are Identical in origin.
(3.) -ster, an old English ending, of which only one example is now in use as feminine : spin-ster-(lit.she that spins; viz. with the spinning-wheel); an unmarried woman. Also song-ster was originally feminine, so that song-str-ess has two feminine endings. In like manner semp-str-ess from the verb seam, has two feminine endings.
Note. But (the termination -ster came to be used as a masculine. This appears in such old words as brewster, huckster, maltster, tapster.
(4.) -a in a few Romance words:-
don donna (Italian)
signor signora (Italian)
So- sultan sultana
Note. The Romance languages are those spoken in the countries which were once provinces of the Roman Empire, and are derived from Latin.