Word Confusion: Protégé versus Protégée

Posted April 9, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of
26 June 2017

I’ve not experienced writers confusing the definition of protégé so much as noting the confusion over gender application. Yep, it’s another one of those French gender differences that require an extra e, a declension, to distinguish the feminine from the masculine.

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. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Protégé Protégée
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

A young boy listens to an old man

“A Young Boy Listens to the Wise Words of an Old Man” is courtesy of under the CC BY 4.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

His young protégé listens to his wise words.

A girl in a three-legged race with a woman

“Second Class Amber Gamez and Her Mentee Hop Their Way to Victory in a Three-Legged Race” by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher S. Wilson for the U.S. Navy photo is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Gamez wins the race with the help of her protégée.

Part of Grammar:
Plural for the noun: protégés
Plural for the noun: protégées

A man who is guided and supported by an older and more experienced or influential person

A woman who is guided and supported by an older and more experienced or influential person
He was an aide and protégé of the former Tennessee senator. She was an aide and protégée of the former Tennessee senator.
History of the Word:
Late 18th century French, literally meaning protected. It’s a past participle of protéger, from the Latin protegere meaning cover in front.

You may want to explore other masculine-feminine word confusions from the French such as “Fiancé versus Fiancée“, “Blond versus Blonde (which includes Brunet vs Brunette)”, “Chargé d’affaires vs Chargée d’affaires“, “Attach vs Attaché vs Attachée“, “Cher, Chéri versus Chère, Chérie“, or “Confidant vs Confidante vs Confident“.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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