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Some words are made feminine by altering the suffix to be -ix. Examples:

  • dominator → dominatrix
  • executor → executrix
  • rector → rectrix

What is the origin of this variation?
From my 5 years of Spanish, and what little I know of Italian/French,
it doesn't seem to me to be from the Romance languages.

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Note it's not -ix but -trix. The female equivalent of a dominator is not a dominaix, but a dominatrix. For the rest see Branimir. Can't say I ever heard someone use the word rectrix, but whatever. I have occasionally heard victrix for a female champion. Now that I think of it, is a female prosecutor a prosecutrix? Can't say I ever heard that used, either. And if a ship is feminine, than is it propelled by a motrix? –  Jay Jan 15 '13 at 20:34
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Would a woman who produced a popular but misleading map be a Mercatrix? –  MT_Head Jan 15 '13 at 20:40
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1 Answer

up vote 10 down vote accepted

All of these words are loans directly from Latin, where -trix is the feminine counterpart of -tor.

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5  
French has -trice for -tor (-teur), which seems rather similar. –  Andrew Leach Jan 15 '13 at 16:41
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@eidylon the fact that the Romance languages derived from Latin makes them less likely to retain them, because the endings they have are a core part of the language. Likewise, we don't have the -n ending on weak nouns' plurals and genitives, or the concept of strong and weak nouns at all, that exists in Anglo Saxon. The more foreign something is, the more likely it is to be treated as foreign. –  Jon Hanna Jan 15 '13 at 16:51
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@BranimirĆaćić - interesting. In 5 years of Spanish, I don't recall ever learning a word ending in -triz. Interesting to know. Thanks for the info all. –  eidylon Jan 15 '13 at 17:11
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@eidylon Masculine-feminine in Spanish: "actor-actriz", "emperador-emperatriz", "automotor-automotriz". And also: "institutriz" (governess), "meretriz" (harlot, prostitute) and "felatriz" (felatrice). Only the last word is rare. :) –  Albertus Jan 15 '13 at 18:55
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@eidylon - What about cicatriz (French, and less commonly English, cicatrice), meaning "scar"? That one definitely came up in high school Spanish. Granted, I have no idea what a "cicator" would be (a noisy insect, perhaps - but only once every 17 years?) –  MT_Head Jan 15 '13 at 19:49
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