Word Confusion: Mass vs Massé vs En Masse

Posted October 31, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

What really got me going on this particular word confusion was a post I read this morning in which mass was used when en masse was obviously the intended word. So I want to remind authors that masses of people are reading their books and posts (I believe in y’all…*grin*…!), and too many people believe…en masse…that what they read on the Internet is true. So y’all gotta pay attention to your word choices.

As for massé…it is not a term with which I’m familiar. Of course, it is a type of sports-related term, and I am so not sports-minded, but it came up when I was hunting through definitions, so for the sake of confusions everywhere, including this is a little massé shot of my own!

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Mass Massé En Masse
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

“The Mass” courtesy of St. James Cathedral

“Massé” courtesy of Billiard World

“Villagers En Masse” courtesy of Ars Technica Open Forum page

Part of Grammar:
Noun 1, 2 *
* In the second sense, always capitalize Mass

Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: masses
Past tense or past participle: massed
Gerund or present participle: massing

Noun, although usually used as an adjective Adverb
Relating to, done by, or affecting large numbers of people or things

A coherent, typically large body of matter with no definite shape 1

  • Large number of people or objects crowded together
  • [Masses; informal] A large quantity or amount of something
  • Any of the main portions in a painting or drawing that each have some unity in color, lighting, or some other quality

[The mass of] The majority of

  • [The masses] The ordinary people

[Physics] The quantity of matter that a body contains, as measured by its acceleration under a given force or by the force exerted on it by a gravitational field

  • [In general use] Weight

[Religion; always capitalize] The Christian Eucharist or Holy Communion, especially in the Roman Catholic Church 2

  • A celebration of this
  • A musical setting of parts of the liturgy used in the Mass

Verb, intransitive:
To come together in or form a mass or masses

Verb, transitive:
Assemble or cause to assemble into a mass or as one body

  • To gather into or dispose in a mass or masses
[Billiards] A stroke made with an inclined cue, imparting swerve to the ball In a group

All together

The movie has mass appeal.

When the ship docked, there was a mass exodus of refugees.

She had a mass of the curliest chestnut hair.

From here, the trees were a dark mass.

There was a mass of cyclists at the bend in the road.

It was a mass of conflicting evidence through which we had to wade.

We get masses of homework.

The masterly distribution of masses.

The great mass of the population had little interest in the project.

We went to Mass.

It was the Latin Mass.

There was a Mass, and the whole family was supposed to go.

Verb, intransitive:
Clouds massed heavily on the horizon.

The crowds are massing in the East Village.

Verb, transitive:
Both countries began massing troops in the region.

The houses are massed in blocks.

A shooter needs experience to execute a good massé shot.

“I practice the massé at home, because an understanding of the dynamics involved helps me in other situations, particularly where using the rail is a factor” (Billiard World).

You’re likely to damage the table when executing a massé shot.

The board of directors resigned en masse.

The audience rose en masse in admiration.

The villagers turned out en masse to burn out the witch.

Adjective: massless, unmassed
Adverb: massedly
History of the Word:
1 Late Middle English from the Old French masse, which is from the Latin massa, from Greek maza meaning barley cake. This may be related to massein, meaning knead.

2 Old English mæsse, from ecclesiastical Latin missa, which is from the Latin miss- meaning dismissed, from mittere. It is perhaps from the last words of the service: Ite, missa est (Go, it is the dismissal).

Late 19th century from the French, as a past past participle of masser, describing the action of making such a stroke in billiards. Late 18th century, from the French, literally meaning in a mass.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Pool 3 by Elvis Santana, via FreeImages.com, and forms the background for Five-Pins Massé by User:Pil56 at it.wikibooks.org (http://it.wikibooks.org/wiki/Immagine:Massé.GIF) under the GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

2 responses to “Word Confusion: Mass vs Massé vs En Masse

  1. I was not familiar with massé either. I always hope that someday peace and stability is achieved in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan so people can be repatriated en masse, as too many years pass it is unlikely as people rebuild their lives in other countries and things change.