Actor vs. Actress

When I was growing up, many moons ago, it seemed that an ‘actor’ was always a male, and an ‘actress’ was always a female. I realize now that an actor can be either male or female, and that the word actress, which always pertains to a female, is used less often now.

Did the word actor always include both males and females, and if it did why did they have the word actress? And if it didn’t, when did the usage change, and why?

According to

Actor –noun
“a ***person ***who acts in stage plays, motion pictures, television broadcasts, etc.”

Actress –noun
“a ***woman ***who acts in stage plays, motion pictures, television broadcasts, etc., especially professionally.”

emphasis mine…

There was a time when it was frowned upon for females to act for a living. Actress has always been the feminine of actor but we have gone through a major language shift to de-emphasize the gender standard of many jobs. I, for one, think it is great. Some examples of common changes:
Fireman is now Firefighter
Mailman is now Postal Carrier
Stewardess is now Flight Attendant
Unfortunately, men who choose nursing as a career tend to still get stuck with being called “male nurse” as if it was a novelty, but I hope that is going by the wayside too.

Interesting point carnut, but instead of “degenderizing” the word ‘actor’ why not just use a gender-neutral word like ‘player’?

I don’t see how changing a perfectly good word to a gender-neutral word makes sense. Why do people still use the word actress? I believe it is a proper word to use at least sometimes…

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone refer to a female who acts as anything other than an actress. Granted, I’m not too up on the world of acting, but it’s not like I live under a rock either.

Some of these women are adamant that they be referred to as actors but are happy to be classified differently if it means they’ll have less competition for an award. Until the Academy Awards treats them equally, they’ll be called actresses at my house.

I generally use actor to refer to either gender when talking in generalities of their profession (“Julia Roberts is an actor.”) Generally I’d only say actress if the topic is related to them specifically being female (“Julia Roberts was the highest paid actress of the '90s…”).

I have no idea why I use the words I do in this regard, but it is probably mentally in the same category for me as comedienne.

It’s a good thing.

the problem with using feminized nouns is that it subtly, but powerfully, advances the idea that for a woman to do it is abnormal. Sexism at its most fundamental.

Actress is not such a big deal, but every step is a victory.

We’ve had this discussion before, and some people said that there was a difference between a female actor and an actress. But I don’t remember what it was.

I personally just use whatever term the person uses for themselves. If I don’t know, I usually avoid the term altogether.

Also, I believe there are other words where the female form has fallen out of use. It’s usually only the ones that have masculine words in them that get modified.

As a writer, I have been trained to use the gender-neutral term whenever possible. In the beginning, I thought it was a bit silly. Now, I have determined that what Stoid said above is true. The more sexist our language, the more sexist our behavior. It is very subtle.

All those who act are actors. “Players” refers specifically to the stage. “Actress” somehow seems less than a female actor to me but I think this has come from 30 years of using gender-neutral terms.

It’s not the “Screen Actors and Actresses Guild.”

As William Safire finally decided in the 1970’s, use gender specific terms only in cases where it is relavent and/or clarifying. Saying “Female actrerss Whoopi Goldberg” is a double no-no.