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Forming nouns denoting the female gender.

From French ‑esse, via late Latin from Greek ‑issa.

Many examples exist: actress, countess, duchess, enchantress, hostess, lioness, ogress, peeress, poetess, princess, waitress. In some cases, it can mean ‘wife of’: ambassadress, mayoress. Such forms are now often seen as sexist or patronising; many have been replaced to a greater or lesser extent by the stem term, taken to be neutral in gender (poets, for example, may be either male or female). Some examples are now mainly of historical or poetic relevance, such as abbess, goddess, priestess and shepherdess.

See also ‑enne, ‑ette, ‑stress, and ‑trix.

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