Is "mentee" (the subject of a mentor's attention) a real word historically?

Does “mentee” have any real etymological history or is it just a newly coined word. It’s on but it seems to have no history other than being the subject of a mentor’s attentions. Have mentor and “mentee” always traveled side by side?

Mentor comes from the name of Odysseus’s wise advisor. The name word does not have the same connotation as other similar words. I think that the word most people mean when they say “mentee” is protege. And FWIW “mentee” does not appear in my big honkin’ dictionary.

My dictionary (OED) must be extra-big and extra-honkin’, since it dates “mentee” to 1965. It also notes it to be of U.S. origin.

Shib, I would argue that there’s a subtle yet important difference between a mentee and a protege: the first being a person who’s advised by a mentor (as in the Odysseus/Mentor relationship), while a protege is under the protection or apprenticeship of another (as in a journeyman/master relationship).

Yes, I didn’t mean to imply it was the same thing, just that might be what people actually mean. In US business parlance, though, a mentor would have a protege. I just think that term fell out of use because of it’s implication of a protected relationship, which rings a bit of favoritism, so someone made up a new word. US business is forever inventing or corrupting meanings of words in an attempt to sound hip.

It’s ironic that my Webster’s Unabridged (just a shade over 2000 pages) doesn’t have an entry, yet your OED does. Leave it to the English to define our American phrases. Perhaps Webster thought the usage was improper and hence did not include it?

Not really. The OED is just a better dictionary. Nothing comes close for etymological information.

“Mentee” is a nonword. It was used by a false analysis of the -or ending in Mentor. Most words ending in -or, like lessor, are agentive, so the corresponding words ending in -ee, like lessee, are passive.

Mentor is not one of those words. The -or agentive ending is Latin, but Mentor is a Greek name. Originally it was the name of a family friend of Odysseus. Athena took on the form of Mentor to give advice to Telemachus. That’s why it’s used to mean advisor. But there is no word mentee. To say “mentee” shows ignorance of what Mentor really is. Protégé is the word you really want to use here.

IOW, there is no verb '“to ment”.

Why should the creation of an English word depend on Latin forms? Virtually every word in English has changed or at least added meaning from the original word in whatever language it has borrowed from. New words form all the time, based on whatever criteria the coiner desires. The word television was once denounced as a barbarity because it was half-Greek and half-Latin. Today, nobody knows or cares about its origin. It was a useful word and became part of the everyday language.

Mentee will either be deemed useful and become part of the language or not, solely based on its perceived need and desirability. Its origins matter not a whit.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, Minty.

Mentee is in my copy Webster’s Dictionary, but there is no etymology.

I hate the way mentee is used. Does a tutor tutor a tutee? Come on! It’s stupid.

Please! Those of you who refer to having a Webster’s dictionary.

Webster’s is a generic term. It means nothing. I could write my own version of a dictionary and call it a Webster’s.

Please identify your dictionary with more descriptive titles such as “Merriam Webster Collegiate.”

The dictionary cites would prove that this is a false statement.

The OED, as peepthis observes, dates the term to 1965, and says that it is of US origin. Interestingly, the 1965 instance of this usage comes from the American Economic Review, and subsequent citations are from the American Political Science Review (1978), Progressive (1983), Vanity Fair (1994), and Fast Company (electronic edition, 2001).

Now, while i love the OED and defer to it on all aspects of the English language, i’m still not going to use what i consider to be an awkward-sounding and entirely superfluous addition to the language.

My Fowler’s Modern English Usage (Third Edition) doesn’t specifically mention this word, but has this to say about the use of -ee in general:

Personally, i put ‘mentee’ in the group that Fowler’s defines as risible, and another one i really hate is ‘standee.’

My handy Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language (Second College Edition) has a 1974 copyright date. The reference features an entry for tutee, but none for mentee.

Yeah, and does an employer employ an employee?

IMHO thats different - an “employer” is “one who employs” and an employee is “one who is being employed”

a mentor is not “one who ments” so you cannot have a “mentee”.

Does that make sense??

thinking about it actually - if you were to accept mentor as a verb then i suppose technically you could use the cumbersome mentoree

Which sounds like some kind of world-wide get-together involving scouts :slight_smile:

We use the cumbersome word “mentoree” in Australia. No one thinks twice about it. I have never heard of a “mentee”, perhaps it is uniquely American

You mean, maybe find it in a dictionary somewhere? OK, I think we can do that.

Why not use the less cumbersome mentee? Such abbreviating is done in language all the time. But I think they should pronounce it ment-ock.

Aah. Further ground to spread my gospel. The optimal word is –


I successfully launched an anti-mentee campaign in our offices several years back, accompanied by frequent postings of uses of the word tyro in media - most recently in last Sunday’s Trib crossword. Tyro is now the most commonly used term in our offices, both in casual speech, meetings, and written communication.

Plus, tyro is just a really cool word, and fun to say.

At least I have SOMETHING to be proud of after 16+ years of government employ…