Wasn't Mrs. short for mistress? Why do we read Mrs. as missus(or sometimes missis) instead of mistress?

  • 3
    +1 This is a question I never thought to ask. But now you've asked it, I'm surprised I've never questioned it myself.
    – Mark Byers
    Jul 27, 2012 at 9:56

2 Answers 2


It is read as mistress, albeit a contracted form of it, just like ma'am is a popular contraction of madam. Quoting WP:

Mrs. originated as a contraction of the honorific Mistress, the feminine of Mister, or Master, which was originally applied to both married and unmarried women. The split into Mrs. for married women from Ms. and Miss began during the 17th century.

It is rare for Mrs. to be written in a non-abbreviated form, and the word lacks a standard phonetic spelling. In literature it may appear as missus or missis in dialogue. A variant in the works of Thomas Hardy and others is "Mis'ess", reflecting its etymology.

  • See also the comments here.
    – MetaEd
    Jul 27, 2012 at 14:33

Mr(s) is a reference to the feminine of "Mr." The most common reference is to "missus," (a female "mister" if you will), although it could also be a reference to "mistress" (a female master).

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