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-ette

1.
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).
Compare -et.
Origin
< French, feminine of -et -et
Usage note
English nouns in which the suffix -ette designates a feminine role or identity have been perceived by many people as implying inferiority or insignificance: bachelorette; drum majorette; farmerette; suffragette; usherette. Of these terms, only drum majorette—or sometimes just majorette—is still widely used, usually applied to one of a group of young women who perform baton twirling with a marching band. A woman or man who actually leads a band is a drum major. Baton twirler is often used instead of (drum) majorette. Farmer, suffragist, and usher are applied to both men and women, thus avoiding any trivializing effect of the -ette ending. See also -enne, -ess, -trix.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for -ette

-ette

suffix
1.
small: cigarette, kitchenette
2.
female: majorette, suffragette
3.
(esp in trade names) imitation: Leatherette
Word Origin
from French, feminine of -et
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for -ette

diminutive formation, from Old French -ette (fem.), used indiscriminately in Old French with masculine form -et. As a general rule, older words borrowed from French have -et in English, while ones taken in since 17c. have -ette. In use with native words since 20c., especially among persons who coin new product names, who tend to give it a sense of "imitation." Also in words like sermonette, which, OED remarks, "can scarcely be said to be in good use, though often met with in newspapers."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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