Is it the word saboteuse considered archaic (or not fully added from French)?

Should all saboteurs be referred to as such regardless of sex?

  • books.google.com/ngrams/… shows that saboteurs barely registers. Interesting to see how many people were talking about saboteurs during World War II.
    – k1eran
    Aug 16, 2018 at 23:09

2 Answers 2


Saboteur is a gender-neutral term for one who sabotages. Use saboteur for both male and female. However, the OED does say that the feminine term for a saboteur is “saboteuse.” Still, I would say that it’s fairly uncommon.



Some dictionaries acknowledge the -euse feminine agentive suffix for some words:

Oxford Living Dictionaries

American Heritage Dictionary

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Oxford Living Dictionaries

Collins English Dictionary

I don't see saboteuse in any dictionary, but wait ten years and we'll see.

Related is English agentive suffixes (-er and -tress) or Latin (-tor and -trix)

They may pop up and disappear throughout history with little predictability as far as I can see.

If I had to guess, I'd say in general English words are combining the feminine and masculine suffixes into one, whereas words in specialist domains are continuing to maintain the differences, probably because people want to have a special-sounding title. That's a pure guess, and I'd like to be corrected or listen to another guess.

  • First off, the OED has saboteuse. But any male agent noun ending in ‑eur which we’ve imported from French automatically has a corresponding ‑euse female agent noun that goes with it, whether in common use or not. This is because of its productivity that way in French. On rare occasion it is also used solely within English to create a brand new word, such as strippeuse from stripper and probably patterned after danseuse. But mostly these all come in preëxisting pairs imported wholesale from French, so using the “other” one is always going be “legitimate” even as a nonce-use.
    – tchrist
    Aug 17, 2018 at 1:13
  • @tchist I agree with you that it can be legitimately used. I refrained from encouraging the OP to use it for creativity's sake because I didn't think that was related to their question. I have a feeling the OP isn't interested in nonce uses, but rather whether the word is used today, given that the question was "is it archaic?". All I did was point out I hadn't found it in any dictionary I checked (the OED I don't have a subscription to). I didn't find any use of the word in English apart from names, titles of songs, bands, books etc.(just from an internet search)
    – Zebrafish
    Aug 17, 2018 at 3:54

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