When Cleopatra was a Goddess


Part Two on the series on Personal Nouns looks at the role of the female in the English language. To start off this article I would like to ask this question: If there is a god, why is there not a goddess? After all, some women deserve to be called a goddess for their part in influencing and helping lives of others. 😉  I knew one from my days in college who was into poker and had a great sense of humor. Still, everyone called her a goddess.

But aside from that, how many personal nouns carry this well-esteemed “-ess,” honoring the feminists from the days of the Middle Ages and even further back to the waning days of the Roman Empire?

Nichts leichter als das: zu wenig!  While every German ending of a feminine noun ends with “-in” in singular and “-innen” in plural, not more than 200 personal nouns carry the feminine form. While we have the most common words, like actress (for actor) and waitress (for waiter), do we know that words, like aviatress, creatress, empress, governess, mistress, postmistress, sorceress, stewardess, titaness and veteraness even existed? Believe it or not, even though many of these words are becoming part of a memory, they are part of the English vocabulary that honors the women both rich and poor and regardless of which period these words came from. The conversion from the masculine version to the feminine version is simple: -ess after the ending with -r, -n, or in some cases, -ch. A guide on which feminine words exists in English can be found here.

So keeping this in mind, let’s have a look at the following:

Part A.:  Which of these words have a feminine form? Mark with an f and write on the side what they are.

SPORTSCASTER            DUKE            ADVENTURER       AUTHOR        CREATOR      DEMIGOD       PRINCE           DIRECTOR           HOST            ENGINEER           TEACHER           PROFESSOR         PEER  PORTER          TIGER          FEMALE           WRESTLER            PROPHET

Part B.: Matching.  Use the words marked in bold print in the text above and complete the sentences below.

  1. Amelia Earhart was the first _________ to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
  2. There were many more _____________ who fought in the Vietnam War than in World War II.
  3. J.K. Rowling is the ___________ of the wizard, Harry Potter and his friends.
  4. Cleopatra was the only known _________ of Egypt, and one who killed herself in protest of the Roman Conquest. (GQ: How did she take her life?)
  5. Yet many historians considered Cleopatra to be a _________ because of her god-like powers over much of her empire and beyond.
  6. In Salem, many women were burned at the stake for being __________ during the infamous 1692 witchhunt.
  7. If you see a ___________ on your next jetliner, say hi to her and tell her how much you appreciate your service.
  8. While a _________ loves affairs, a _________ does her formal affairs by delivering mail in sparsely populated places.
  9. While Angela Merkel is Germany’s chancellor, Nikki Haley is one of a handful of ___________ in the US. She is in charge of affairs in South Carolina.


Part C.: Odd man out.  Which one is the odd man out? Underline the word.

  1. Businesswoman     Policewoman     Congresswoman    Adventurer
  2. Adulteress     Mistress      Trophy Wife       Countess
  3. Idolatress    Goddess    Demigoddess   Worshipperess
  4. Lioness    Tigeress   Leopardess   Catess
  5. Highness    Heiress     Femaleness   Huntress

Do you know some other feminine words in English that should be added? Please add them in the comment section of the Files both here as well as on its facebook pages. I bet there are more than what are mentioned here. After all, women deserved to be recognized for their work over the centuries, right?

I think so. 🙂


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