Was Mrs ever intended to mean Mr's, as in mister's to indicate possession? I started thinking about this when someone brought a breakdown of the word history (his-story) to my attention. It obviously would be very sexist but not surprising.

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    "History" is not really his + story (although you can break it down that way). In French, it is histoire even though his is not the male possessive. You might be interested in a better etymology here – simchona Aug 10 '11 at 6:06
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    @simchona - Bah. You're ruining a perfectly good expression of outrage with your pesky facts. – T.E.D. Aug 10 '11 at 13:29
  • @simchona: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herstory – CesarGon Aug 16 '11 at 10:41
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    @Cesar I'm aware of the feminist reinterpretation of historiography. I brought up the French because the OP sounded like he thought "his story" was the actual breakdown of the word. – simchona Aug 16 '11 at 19:13
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    Hi @Matthew. I hope you don't think it rude, but there is an answer ripe for the accepting. Can you come and give it a look over and see if it meets your needs? If it doesn't, let us know how we can make it better. – Matt E. Эллен Aug 17 '11 at 21:04

Mrs is the written form of missus. The EtymOnline entry writes that missus is a:

corruption of mistress; as oral form of Mrs., from 1790; the missus “the wife” attested by 1833.

Tracing back further to the entry for mistress uncovers:

early 14c., "female teacher, governess," from O.Fr. maistresse, fem. of maistre "master" (see master). Sense of "a woman who employs others or has authority over servants" is from early 15c. Sense of "kept woman of a married man" is from early 15c.

Where did mister come from? It's a corruption of master :

O.E. mægester "one having control or authority," from L. magister "chief, head, director, teacher" (cf. O.Fr. maistre, Fr. maître, It. maestro, Ger. Meister), influenced in M.E. by O.Fr. maistre, from L. magister, contrastive adj. from magis (adv.) "more," itself a comp. of magnus "great."

So mister and missus derive from the male and female forms of maistre--they share a root. Mrs is not derived from a possessive form of Mr.

  • An interesting video on the subject: hotforwords Mr. and Mrs. – Matt E. Эллен Aug 11 '11 at 8:47
  • Interestingly, the Dutch word Meester is used to address a primary school teacher, and it's the formal title of a lawyer (abbreviated as mr.). In addition, engine drivers are also called Meester and it is sometimes used in the bible to address Jesus. However, it is never used in the same way as the English Mister, for which the Dutch use Meneer, which derives from Mijn heer (my Lord) (compare with the German Mein Herr). There is a female form of Meester, namely Meesteres, but nowadays it is almost exclusively used to denote a dominant woman in the context of SM. – Sjoerd C. de Vries Aug 16 '11 at 7:31
  • Mr is also the abbreviation for Master, as in 'Master of Arts' (probably the origin of the more generic form). In this sense, the feminine is Mra, from Latin magistra. I have seen this used once in my life: the equivalent for PhDs, Drx, is more common (perhaps three or four times). – Tim Lymington Aug 16 '11 at 9:37

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