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Mrs

The meaning of «mrs»

Mrs. (American English) or Mrs (British English; standard English pronunciation: /ˈmɪsɪz/) is a commonly used English honorific for women, usually for those who are married and who do not instead use another title (or rank), such as Dr, Professor, President, Dame, etc. In most Commonwealth countries, a full stop (period) is usually not used with the title. In the United States and Canada a period is usually used (see Abbreviation).[1]

Mrs originated as a contraction of the honorific Mistress, the feminine of Mister, or Master, which was originally applied to both married and unmarried women. The split into Mrs for married women and Miss for unmarried began during the 17th century;[2][3] the 17th century also saw the coinage of a new unmarked option Ms with a return of this usage appearing in the 20th century.

It is rare for Mrs to be written in a non-abbreviated form, and the unabbreviated word lacks a standard spelling. In literature it may appear as missus or missis in dialogue. A variant in the works of Thomas Hardy and others is "Mis'ess", reflecting its etymology. Misses has been used but is ambiguous, as this is a commonly used plural for Miss. The plural of Mrs is from the French: Mesdames. This may be used as-is in written correspondence, or it may be abbreviated Mmes.

Mrs was most often used by a woman when married, in conjunction with her husband's first and last names (e.g., Mrs John Smith). A widow would also be addressed with the same title as when she was married. Mrs was rarely used before a woman's first name, her birth name, or a hyphenated surname her husband was not using. For example, Mrs Jane Smith, Mrs Miller (wife of John Smith), or Mrs Miller-Smith were considered incorrect by many etiquette writers, especially of the early 20th century.[4]

In several languages, the title for married women such as Madame, Señora, Signora, or Frau, is the direct feminine equivalent of the title used for men; the title for unmarried women is a diminutive: Mademoiselle, Señorita, Signorina, or Fräulein. For this reason, usage had shifted toward using the married title as the default for all women in professional usage. This had long been followed in the United Kingdom for some high-ranking household staff, such as housekeepers, cooks, and nannies, who were called Mrs as a mark of respect regardless of marital status. However, in the late 20th century the marital-neutral Ms became more common for women professionally and socially.[citation needed]

In the United Kingdom, the traditional form for a divorcée was Mrs Jane Smith.[citation needed] In the U.S., the divorcée originally retained her full married name unless she remarried.[citation needed] Later,[citation needed] the form Mrs Miller Smith was sometimes used, with the birth surname in place of the first name. However, the form Mrs Jane Miller eventually became widely used for divorcées, even in formal correspondence; that is, Mrs preceded the divorcée's maiden name.

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