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Is there anything that implies that a "host" (noun- e.g. host of an event) is a male? Is there anything preventing a female from being host (as opposed to a hostess)?

In context: An organization holds a weekly event. One of several representatives from the organization hosts each event, and both genders are in the group of potential hosts. Thus, is it sufficient to say "please contact your host..." or would this be inappropriate considering some of the representatives are female?

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    258,000 instances of she is the host in Google Books would suggest that you don't have to use hostess if you think it's "sexist". Jul 26, 2013 at 16:53
  • "She is the host" is a construction that eliminates ambiguity, which is an argument that it would be acceptable, but it may still be misinterpreted in a more ambiguous context.
    – GetzelR
    Jul 26, 2013 at 17:05
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    It's also worth pointing out that quite a few of those examples (paging through the first group of pages) use host in the context of a TV or radio show. Hostess is either not used or rarely used in that context which eliminates the probable misunderstanding in other contexts, like "the host of the party."
    – GetzelR
    Jul 26, 2013 at 17:10
  • Related (not a dupe): english.stackexchange.com/questions/76147/gender-neutral-forms
    – MetaEd
    Jul 26, 2013 at 17:38

3 Answers 3

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The answer to this may well be dependent on the local culture.

In the UK, I certainly would not assume that a host is male.

Moreover, if using the word hostess, I would perhaps be careful of context for the reasons apparent from the definitions in Chambers Dictionary:

hostess noun
1. a female host.
2. a woman employed as a man's companion for the evening at a night club, dance hall, etc.
3. euphemistic a prostitute.
4. an air hostess.

Thus, some female hosts may well prefer not to be referred to as a hostess.

Additionally, the first definition given for host is:

host noun
1. someone who entertains guests or strangers in his or her own home.
(emphasis added)

Thus confirming that host is an appropriate term irrespective of gender.

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    Trevor, but, at least, can there be a sense of sadness when using "host"s to refer to a hostess? Also, if there are two "host" and you call "HOST!", a man and a woman, who of them feels called for fist?
    – user19148
    Jul 26, 2013 at 17:28
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    In the UK people never issue commands such as: "Waiter" or "Host!" It's considered extremely rude.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 26, 2013 at 18:17
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    @Carlo_R., neither should feel called for first, it's equally applicable. See also: actor or waiter
    – Amory
    Jul 26, 2013 at 18:21
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    @ TrevorD: This answer definitely strikes the right note with me (well, I suppose it would, us both being Brits and all! :). I'm surprised there seem to be so many social/linguistic conservatives wanting to hang on to hostess when quite clearly it's very likely to be interpreted as offensive/condescending by so many others. Hostess cooks, empties ashtrays, and hands round party nibbles while "host" sits on his fat MCP arse chatting with "his" guests? Not in today's Britain! Jul 26, 2013 at 20:13
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    @FumbleFingers Agreed. Hostess is a pigeonhole. Jul 26, 2013 at 23:20
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-- original answer rewritten and qualified --

Host is originally from the Old French hoste which included both masculine and feminine in the general sense. Its female form, hostesse, was limited to social contexts. Modern American English mostly follows suit (host, hostess).

In short - host is gender neutral. But.

While host is technically neutral it does have a masculine implication in contexts where hostess is appropriate and is used, as in "host and hostess."

To qualify my original point, in contexts where hostess is appropriate the existence and common usage of the word hostess would suggest to your audience that when you use the word host you are referring to a male.

For completeness, I should point out that hostess is still clearly used in social settings. Googling good hostess (with filters to eliminate the baked goods Hostess and the hospitality industry) will return 20,700,000 results.

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    "Hen" is to "chicken" as "woman" is to "human". One is the gender specific individual, the other is the collective species or race. A male chicken is a "cock" or "rooster" Jul 26, 2013 at 17:25
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    This may be regionally true, but I cannot imagine somebody referring to the hostess of a party, meeting, show, conference, etc. in the US Midwest or West Coast. Hostess is increasingly used only in specific contexts, many of them offensive. At the least, you should indicate where you have encountered the word in practice, or where you have encountered confusion over the terms. Jul 26, 2013 at 18:18
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    In contexts where hostess is appropriate: Nowadays, these are very specific contexts, most of which markedly emphasize sexuality or sexist gender norms (e.g., the practice of hiring attractive, young women as restaurant greeters). The term isn't so much a parallel to host any more as it is a specific social role. Using host doesn't imply masculinity so much as avoid the sexist implications of hostess. The current version of your answer is somewhat improved, but you're still failing to distinguish between “implies masculinity” and ”avoids sexist undertones.” Jul 26, 2013 at 23:17
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    You state that "Googling good hostess ... return[s] 20,700,000 results". When I 'Googled' it, a number of those results were references to "restaurant hostesses", companions for males, etc., so any counts are spurious. No-one is arguing that the term is not used - and the dictionary definition I provided clearly shows that it is. The original question was Is there anything preventing a female from being host ...? - and I think that you and I actually now agree that the answer to that is "No, there isn't." And I did start my answer by saying that the issue may be culture dependent.
    – TrevorD
    Jul 26, 2013 at 23:38
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    For example, if you heard somebody say of a bridal shower, “Chris was such a good host!” – would you ever seriously wonder, “That's unusual, a man hosting a bridal shower”? Jul 28, 2013 at 17:08
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I would probably use hostess only in the joking, but complimentary phrase the hostess-with-the-most-est.

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