What do you call someone who is being mentored? Is it mentoree or mentee? Does the term student or pupil imply a context outside the business environment?

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    I don't understand what you're asking here. The lack of experience and/or knowledge is expected on the side of "the opposite of mentor." What is the problem with "student" or "pupil" then?
    – Frantisek
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 11:24
  • Not really an opposite, but "mentor" is usually associated with "pupil".
    – Urbycoz
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 11:43
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    Perhaps you should rephrase the question, as I believe you're looking for a term for the recipient of mentoring, which is different from the opposite of a mentor, which would be someone who leads you astray rather than guides you on the right path. Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 12:25
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    @ray: I'm reminded of the Inigo Montoya quote, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." ;-) Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 12:43
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    "Mentor" does not imply a business environment; it's a general term for someone who acts as a role model, guide, or teacher. "Mentee" is just as general. Using different/more specific words can imply a context, but to just describe the relationship I recommened "mentee"
    – yoozer8
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 20:03

8 Answers 8


I think you may be looking for protege:

protege — a person who receives support and protection from an influential patron who furthers the protege's career

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    But patron is very different from mentor. A patron provides money and influence, while a mentor is normally an expert in the pupil's own field and gives advice. The Pope was a patron of Michaelangelo who commissioned him to create many works of art, but the Pope could not be a mentor as he had no artistic experience of his own. Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 14:10
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    @Nate: Mentor is used today in the same way patron used to be. These days patron has come to mean someone who donates money to an institution (or individual), not someone who brings someone along in society or in a career.
    – Robusto
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 14:16
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    +1. Came here to say this. We can get hung up on the particulars of this particular definition from this particular source all we want, but that doesn't change the fact that mentor/protégé is the word pair that everyone actually uses. Just check, oh I dunno, Seinfeld, or Sex and the City, or really, every TV series ever.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 16:45
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    @RegDwight: Despite the fact that I expect mentee to be displaced by mentoree pretty soon, it's the more common of the two right now. And checking Google Books for mentor paired with mentee/protege, in 1990-1995 I find 1550/4360, in 1995-2000 4320/6490, and in 2000-2005 9880/8950. I didn't bother with 2005-2010 because it'll be incomplete, but it's obvious protege has already been displaced. The only question now is whether/how soon mentoree will take the top slot. Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 2:28
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    Protege doesn't work since the mentee is not "protected" by the mentor nor does the mentor-mentee relationship usually last beyond a training period. When I became a dispatcher, I had a "mentor" that I could ask questions of until I got the hang of things and passed the annual qualification. Once I was signed off, he was no longer my mentor; he was my co-worker. I was never his protege.
    – AnWulf
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 21:37

Some businesses provide less experienced staff with mentors. I have heard the mentors refer to their "mentees". Wikipedia says this is a recent term.


There's nothing at all wrong with mentoree, as these 1270 written instances in Google Books show. The fact that most dictionaries don't explicitly list this particular inflection of mentor is of no consequence - it's used often enough already, and will always be understood even at first sight.

Mentee also occurs quite often in written form - but I have to say I don't like that version, and it seems to me it won't always be so readily understood. Bearing in mind that what a mentor does is mentoring, not menting, I think it's a badly-formed coinage anyway.

I would also point out that to mentor as a verb form barely existed before the last couple of decades, so it's hardly surprising more exotic inflections still encounter some resistance. But I've no doubt the erroneous mentee will die off, and "regular" mentoree will soon be firmly established.

EDIT: My Chambers dictionary 1983 has only the short entry "a wise counsellor" for mentor. The latest 2011 edition is much expanded, fully describing the "office mentor" role, and noting its use as a verb. I don't have the two intermediate editions to hand, to say when the verb use was first noted. The point is, we're looking at rapidly changing language here; dictionaries may not always keep up.

I also tip my hat to @horatio for pointing out that since the word comes from Mentor, counsellor to Homer's Odysseus (later, tutor to his son), arguably OP's answer is Odysseus (or Telemachus)

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    You may not like "mentee", but it's certainly in wider use than "mentoree", as the ngrams and google book search show. Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 3:30
  • @Mark Beadles: Well you only have to look at the upvotes here for protege - twice those for silves89's mentee, and four times my mentoree - to see that most people like what they know. But I'm quite certain if you plot the frequency of occurence for all three words over the past 30 years, you'll see that mentoree is coming up fast on the inside track. Given its "correct" relationship to the newly-emerged verb "to mentor", I'd bet any money that in another 30 years time mentoree will be the standard form. Whether we few here at ELU like it or not - it's just a line on a graph. Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 5:46
  • If tutoree is OK, so is mentoree. Mentor's trademark rights have lapsed, so we don't need a capital M; it's a common noun now, hanging around business schools, and it's been inflecting like a verb lately. The -ee suffix selects Absolutives, which means direct objects of transitive verbs (and subjects of intransitive). Both verbs are transitive, and their direct objects (the people being tutored or mentored) are selected. Perfectly straighforward; the only strange thing is a proper noun becoming a verb, like lynch or boycott. Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 20:15
  • @John Lawler: I don't understand that word absolutive (or the references to ergative languages that abound when I try to Google it). Does it effectively identify the "passive recipient" form (e.g. - trainee) as opposed to the "active agent" (e.g. - trainer)? Anyway, I quite agree a significant factor here is that the noun has become a standard verb, which is what makes me think the person being mentored will soon be routinely called the "mentoree" without people feeling they're just using office jargon. Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 21:52
  • Ergative phenomena occur in most languages; so do Accusative phenomena. English mostly uses an Accusative system marking the Direct Object as a special case that occurs only with transitive verbs. Ergative systems mark the Transitive Agent Subject as a special case that occurs only with transitives. At the bottom of the linked page a couple of minor ergative phenomena in English are mentioned, and the -ee suffix is one. That's all. Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 22:07

I know that mentee is common in American English, and is used by a variety of mentoring programs. One example of such is the US Department of Health and Human Services's Mentoring Program.

I know several people that work in this field, and they all use the word mentee.

Although the term mentee is relatively new and not near as popular as mentor, it far outshadows the use of mentoree.

A few other organizations that use "mentee":


I think apprentice may be as good as anything. It's certainly used much more than mentee/mentoree. It's also pretty accurate and widely understood.


I assume you are asking for a word for a person guided by a mentor. "Student" or "pupil" perhaps, but they have the implication of teaching. Perhaps "acolyte" or "disciple", though the latter implies devotion, and is used for follwers of a religous leader. Mentee is indeed "modern" and not widely used.


Mentee may be in the dictionary, but it is not in common usage (in my experience). My browser spell-check doesn't even recognize it :) It'll probably get the point across, though it may earn some odd looks.

Mentoring someone is not strictly a teaching relationship, so student and pupil don't quite fit. Especially in a business setting, a mentor is often just there to help the person get settled, show them particulars of your business and answer questions. This is not "teaching" them to do their job except in the loosest sense.

In short, I don't think there's a single nice term that mirrors trainee.

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    Mentee shows up in the bureaucratic nonsense---tenure progress packets, grant application, etc---written in US academic circles. Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 16:54
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    At work we use mentee with only a little bit of tongue in cheek.
    – Arthaey
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 23:49
  • Down-voted for saying that your spell checker doesn't recognize it.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 12:35
  • @HotLicks - It was a joking observation (hence the smiley) - I did point out that it was in the actual dictionary. But if you feel that detracts enough from the actual answer enough to warrant a down-vote, that's your prerogative.
    – Lynn
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 15:34

Mentee sounds, to this linguist, like a perfectly understandable neologism based on the trainer-trainee analogy, never mind that the verb root ment- to which the -ee suffix is added does not exist in its own right.

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    In trainer/trainee, as with payee, employee, mortgagee, appointee, the root verb is clearly identified. And in the last two we rarely encounter the -er/-or forms anyway, suggesting the verb itself is far more important than the derived "active agent" form in determining the acceptability of a "passive recipient" form. Given the recent rapid rise in popularity of the verb to mentor, and the implausibility of to ment ever catching on, I really do think that once the general speaking public get to grips with this, mentee will be quietly killed off as "office jargon". Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 21:22
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    a quick look at the word mentor shows that is was the proper name of a character in Odysseus. So the -or suffix is coincidental and not latin, which suggests to me that -ee suffix is not strictly correct. (??) However, the -or/-ee combo punch is well established. I suppose that the proper word to use would be Odysseus.
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 22:24
  • @horatio: haha, nice one! My Chambers '83 confirms, but has only the very short entry "a wise counsellor" for mentor. Latest '11 issue is much expanded, fully describing the "office mentor" role, and noting its use as a verb. We really are witnessing language in the making here, so it's a shame you didn't get your alternative in early so it could have become established by now! Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 22:47
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    ...also, note that in all other agent/recipient pairings, the agent version is formed by adding -er/-or to a pre-existing verb. Obviously the relevant verb here didn't even exist when mentor as "agent" started out, but quite possibly in a few generations people will assume that's the one that isn't "strictly correct". (they'll be saying it should really have been mentorer :) Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 2:36
  • I found mentee back to 1943 ... so it is hardly a neologism. It's been around long enuff to make to make into the OED: oxforddictionaries.com/definition/mentee Regardless, mentor stands as a word without a verb root so there is no grounds to demand a verb root for mentee.
    – AnWulf
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 4:11

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