Ever Wondered Why There’s an “R” in “Mrs”?

Missus doesn’t even have an “R” in it. What’s the deal?

Here’s-Why-There’s-an-“R”-in-“Mrs.”Tatiana Ayazo/Rd.com, istock

Spelling in the English language can be tricky, downright hilarious, or just plain confusing. Case in point: Why does the abbreviation “Mrs.” have an “R” when the full word “missus” is R-less?

That’s because Mrs. wasn’t always the abbreviation for missus. Centuries ago, it stood for mistress, which at the time meant the woman of the household. A governess who looked after children was also called a mistress. Eventually, the abbreviation became the title for married women, while men used Mr., pronounced master.

Here’s-Why-There’s-an-“R”-in-“Mrs.”Tatiana Ayazo/Rd.com, istock

Since English speakers have a tendency to shorten words by means of contractions, the moniker was pronounced missus at the end of the 18th century. It was probably for the best, since “mistress” was given a new definition, the one we know today involving extramarital romantic affairs. Confusing the two could land you in seriously awkward trouble.

Here’s-Why-There’s-an-“R”-in-“Mrs.”Tatiana Ayazo/Rd.com, istock

The grammar changed for the gents, too. The pronunciation of Mr. eventually went from master to mister, but the whole title was rarely written out. Mister was already a word that referred to an occupation or trade.

Long story short: The English language is confusing. At least some grammar rules don’t require lessons; we just do them without even noticing. And spelling can even change between continents and dialects–here is the difference between “traveled” and “travelled”.

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