I recently came across the word scooterette in an Indian newspaper. I wondered if this is an Indian coinage; a quick search on Google showed me it's almost purely Indian. I could not find a reliable dictionary reference, but this article says these scooterettes are scooters manufactured specifically for women.

What is the reason this suffix "-ette" is used to refer to a female? Are there other nouns which become feminine by this addition? Or is this just some neologist's portmanteau of scooter and dudette?


5 Answers 5


The -ette suffix is normally applied to women, not objects designed specifically for women. Thus suffragette, your dudette, usherette and the like. The French language uses -ette to feminise names: Paul/Paulette, Claude/Claudette, etc., and the same principle is used to feminise some nouns in English to create a female variant.

By extension it can also mean "small", cigarette, novelette, Nissan's Vanette and so on. These aren't female, or specially for women.

It's not normally used to create a noun like scooterette meaning "a scooter for women", although perhaps it's simply a smaller scooter which happens to appeal to women (and not men, so it's ridden exclusively by women).

  • Your first sentence is confusing to me – after all, the suffix is applied to objects as well as women, isn't it? Luncheonette, diskette, towelette, launderette... Just curious; maybe I'm missing something?
    – J.R.
    May 9, 2012 at 18:50
  • @J.R. I know what I meant: I'm not sure the edit makes it any better...
    – Andrew Leach
    May 9, 2012 at 18:59
  • I see what you're getting at now – thanks for the explanation!
    – J.R.
    May 9, 2012 at 19:02

There are also majorette and usherette, but -ette can be a diminutive suffix, used to produce words such as kitchenette and cigarette. It is also sometimes used to describe imitation material such as leatherette.


its generally female because of its etymology: From the French -ette, the feminine form of the diminutive suffix -et.


-ette is frequently used to indicate the fairer sex. As in bachelorette, suffragette, etc.

a noun suffix occurring originally in loanwords from French, where it has been used in a variety of diminutive and hypocoristic formations (brunette; cigarette; coquette; etiquette; rosette); as an English suffix, -ette forms diminutives (kitchenette; novelette; sermonette), distinctively feminine nouns (majorette; usherette), and names of imitation products (leatherette).


Mostly ditto Andrew Leach and Kevin.

Note that -ess is also used in English to make a word feminine, like prince/princess, actor/actress, waiter/waitress, etc.

As the right-wing traditionalist here, I am disappointed to have to add that the use of -ette and -ess to make words feminine is largely dying out. In some cases the male form is now being applied to both sexes, or a new word is chosen to apply to both. Like instead of saying "steward" or "stewardess" we're now supposed to say "flight attendant", etc.

-ette seems to be surviving in the sense of "smaller".

On a tangent, I was in an office supply store a while ago and they had a display of pens. On one side the sign said "Pens for Men" and on the other side "Pens for Women". I didn't have time to look, but I have wondered ever since what the difference would be. Of all the products that might have male and female versions, pens are not one that occurred to me.

  • Apparently Bic have launched pens "for her" to general amusement. Pink barrels mean blue ink; purple barrels mean black ink. The reviews on Amazon show what a vital innovation this is.
    – Henry
    Oct 20, 2012 at 15:51

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.