The word 'master' is obviously gendered sometimes, but is it always so?

There is the perhaps traditional sense associated with servitude.

  • Master Frodo
  • Master of the realm

In these cases the word cold be replaced with mistress without sounding unusual.

Then there are cases which are traditional terms, but don't seem to be applied differently if a female is applicable.

  • master at arms
  • quarter master

Then there is a more general. Master of something. For example

She was a master of disguise

To my mind this may not be gendered. I've not seen 'mistress' used in this way. Also outside of a formal title 'mistress' has other, less positive connotations.

Is it still gendered in this sense? Are there good neutral alternatives?

  • This looks like a dog's-breakfast area. I suspect there are examples where people still argue the toss. 'Master of Ceremonies' is apparently a gender-neutral term, as are degrees. I'm not sure about Jedi. Nov 16, 2016 at 23:07
  • Possible duplicate of Does the word 'master' denote masculinity?. Nov 16, 2016 at 23:20
  • I've never seen any hint that a gender is implied for the master clock of a computer.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 16, 2016 at 23:33
  • You might be better off asking about a particular case or area of usage. There are examples where master is used in a non-gendered way, and there are examples where it's gendered, but you're not going to get a complete list. The same is true of gender-neutral alternatives to master: the same word will not apply in all contexts.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 9, 2020 at 17:21

2 Answers 2


Think of Actor and Actress. In general, Actress has been dropped in the US in favor a more gender neutral approach.

As language and usage evolved, Mistress is gradually bring dropped in favor of Master. Mistress has several other connotations including the use in the power-exchange community.

Also, regardless of one's gender, one earns a Masters Degree...

As Sapir and Whorf suggest, language and use do evolve.


In all instances master is the masculine form and mistress is the feminine form. So yes, master always refers to a male and mistress always refers to a female.

  • 2
    No. What about "master record" in music production? English doesn't have 'gendered' words like some other languages. Nov 9, 2020 at 17:28

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