The real reason why there’s an “R” in “Mrs”

So, maybe you have never asked yourself, “Why is there an r in Mrs.?” But most of us have experienced the struggle when you’re trying to figure out how to address someone (a teacher, or your friend’s parents). For guys, it’s less complex. All you have to say/write/type is Mr. As for women, there’s MissMs., and Mrs. I mean, how are we supposed to know which one a person prefers, especially since we left our psychic powers at home? More importantly, why do men get to be addressed with a simple Mr. while people have at least three options for addressing women?

Miss, and Ms aside (and we’ll get to those), it turns out that Mrs. has a linguistic history that’s especially confusing. When you write Mrs. out as missus, you will immediately notice that 1) you rarely see it written out like that and 2) the r magically disappeared. The resulting question: Where in the world did the r go? Well, let us explain.

During the 15th centurymaster and mistress were the appropriate terms that one would use when addressing someone. That’s why Mrs. can be linked back to mistress, since the r is the proud 5th letter in that word. But then – since language tends to change – people began to pronounce mistress differently by taking out the r. Thus, this word became missus during the 18th century, which was used as a standard term for women. As for mistress, it was still used to address a woman who was of a higher class. Over time – as you may know – mistress gained a completely different meaning that refers to “the other woman.”

After while, people dropped the “tress” from “Mistress,” and called married women “Miss.” Which is especially confusing, since the “Miss” we know today indicates a single woman, not a married woman.

Luckily, people began to use the inclusive term Ms. during the early 1900s to make their lives easier (and to progressively support women who didn’t want to be labeled by their marriage).

Mr. also went through a bit of a change, but didn’t end up losing the along the way. It started out as master, turned into mister, and then became Mr… The End. Must be nice, dudes.

All in all, no matter what a word’s history looks like, one thing’s for sure: language is completely and utterly fascinating.

(Image via iStock)

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