-enne

-enne

a personal noun suffix occurring in loanwords from French, where it forms feminine nouns corresponding to masculine nouns ending in -en (comedienne, doyenne ); on this model, of very limited productivity in English, forming distinctively feminine nouns from words ending in -an: equestrienne.

The few English words that end in -enne, indicating the feminine counterpart of a traditionally masculine term ending in -en or -an, usually carry little implication of inferiority. Many women, however, prefer that no distinction be made and that, as with other gender-specific words, the terms once reserved for males be applied to males and females alike. English is quite inconsistent in adopting such feminine nouns. Equestrian has the form equestrienne; pedestrian has no corresponding feminine term. Although we have both comedienne and tragedienne, there is no feminine variant for thespian. See also -ess, -ette, -trix.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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