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The word confrère(s) in French is used to refer to males sharing the same profession; the word for females is consoeur(s). How about English? Is this term used for both genders?

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  • I imagine anyone savvy enough to use the French masculine version would be capable of generating the feminine even if they'd never seen it before. Yes, it is used in English Feb 6 '12 at 18:48
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    @FumbleFingers I didn't know it existed. Thanks for the information.
    – user15851
    Feb 6 '12 at 18:51
  • Fun fact: Dutch lawyers address their male colleagues as "confrère", their female colleagues as "collega". If they know each other well, it becomes "amice" v. "amica". Feb 6 '12 at 18:59
  • Is the term 'confrere' used in English?
    – Mitch
    Feb 7 '12 at 13:24
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The definition of confrere is gender-free in American dictionaries (AHED, Merriam-Webster, and Dictionary.com, to name three).

Note that the usage example given by MW is this:

Many of the judge's confreres on the Fifth Circuit bench don't feel as she does on the issue

So, yes, confrere (or confrère) is used for either gender in English.

(A French confrère tells me that lawyers in France start letters to fellow lawyers with "Cher Confrère" regardless of the gender of their addressee.)

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  • Although the observation that confrere is gender-neutral in English is otherwise well-supported, the MW example does not demonstrate this, as it could be that a mixed-gender group would, in English as in French, take the unmarked, masculine form of the noun. Feb 7 '12 at 22:04
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I've only heard colleague used in English instead of confrère or consoeur. Colleague does not imply gender in any way. It is not at all unusual for a male and female to be colleagues and that does not signify anything more than a professional association.

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  • Notwithstanding my comment to OP, I'm solidly with you on this one. We have a perfectly good gender-neutral term that everyone is familiar with, so why get tied up in knots searching for le mot juste (which it can't quite be in this case since even French doesn't have a feminine equivalent for that term, which I'd like to call la motte juste!) Feb 6 '12 at 19:08
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    @jimreed I've discovered that the word confrere is also used in English only recently and wondered whether it could be used to address a female colleague too. I searched in the dictionary but it wasn't much helpful. I know that the neutral word colleague is the most commonly used and this is the one I'd use myself but I think it is legitimate to be curious when encountering a new word and be interested to know how it is appropriately used.
    – user15851
    Feb 6 '12 at 19:29
  • Although colleague is well-established to refer to members of one's occupation, confrere seems to my ear to refer to a subset of colleagues who share a specialty. So, all of the administrators, faculty, and professional staff (and perhaps even some of the advanced graduate students) in my university are my colleagues, only my colleagues in an identifiable smaller group (school, department, discipline, program) are confreres. Feb 7 '12 at 22:11

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