The other day, I had a small argument with a friend. That asserted that if the primary of a college is a female, she would certainly not be dubbed a "headmaster", quite - a headmistress.

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But i disagreed through him, saying that headmaster is a gender-neutral term. Ns couldn"t believe that civilization still offered the indigenous "headmistress"

Turns out ns was wrong. For this reason my question is around the native "master" - walk the word have actually some woman origin?

Or is it the "mistress" goes with "mister"?

* is in a state of flux v regard come the use of gender-differentiated terms because that professions and nationalities. For part speakers (like mine parents), mrs terms have to be provided when the referent is well-known to be female. Such speakers have to say she is a waitress, not she is a waiter.

However, for various other speakers (like me), words favor waitress, actress, and Frenchwoman are, prefer scrumptious and also copacetic, recognisable as but usable only with ironic or pedantic undertones. I would certainly comfortably to speak she is a waiter to describe what my parents call a waitress.

Not all such words have actually deteriorated in ~ the very same rate. Whereby the woman versions themselves refer to outmoded or old-fashioned job or roles, ns am happy to use the feminine, because that instance, washerwoman or nun. (But i would just use nun to refer a Christian. In the past, I’ve described a buddhism nun together a monk, leading an academic colleague come think I’d mistake the woman for a man, due to the fact that of her shave head. Being 40 years my senior, that wasn’t conscious that monk in this context was simply sex neutral for me.)

Tying all of this ago to your question: you both right, but you’re right about the conventions of different speech communities. Her friend has actually correctly explained a much more conservative dialect. Friend (like me) conform come a an ext innovative one. I’m not certain that dictionaries have come to reflect this change in usage. However if friend google "she is headmaster" / "she is a headmaster" / "she is the headmaster" (plus "-daughter" because that convenience), you’ll evaluate that there space a reasonable variety of speakers prefer us.

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On the concern of the beginning of the master,
Jim correctly observes the magister is the Latin source of master, and in Latin magister was a masculine word. However, if friend ask Who was the biggest actor ever?, this would certainly not normally be required to preclude a woman’s surname being offered in response. In various other words, masculine develops are default quite than male-specific. (They require extr context because that male-specific readings; e.g., Excluding actresses, that was the best actor ever?) i have seen miscellaneous studies of languages in which gender indication is obligatory (including French, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Russian, Spanish), and the very same holds there: masculine creates are (only with particular exceptions) default forms, spanning both genders. Ns don’t know if proof is accessible for Latin, but my guess would be that, as a fine behaved Indo-European language, it might reasonably be supposed to behave similarly.