Where Does The ‘r’ in ‘Mrs.’ Come From?



When it comes to the abbreviation ‘Mr.’ it’s all clear and logical: it stands for ‘Mister,’ there are two consonants in it and it sounds good. But what about ‘Mrs.’ especially that there is no ‘R’ in the word it supposedly comes from, ‘Missis’?

Firstly, the word ‘Missis’ didn’t exist when the abbreviation was created. In fact, neither the abbreviation ‘Mr.’ nor ‘Mrs.’ originate in the words Mister and Missis. Initially, ‘Mr.’ came from the term ‘master’ and ‘Mrs.’ from its feminine counterpart, ‘mistress.’ At the time, the term referred to a woman who was in charge of a situation or other people (often married).

Although the abbreviation remained the same, over the decades the words it seemingly comes from changed. The ‘R’ in the word ‘Mistress’ was less and less pronounced and, somehow, it ended up as ‘Missus’ in the 18th century. During the same century, the word ‘mistress’ was also redefined so that it was no longer related to its former abbreviation. (nowadays, a mistress is the lover of a(n) (un)married man)


The same happened to the word ‘master,’ which slowly turned into ‘mister.’ However, unlike the feminine word ‘missis’ which was invented, mister was already in use. During the 18th century, a mister referred to a trade or occupation. As its usage changed, the mister became a man in charge, often married, just as ‘mistress’ once did.

The story of how ‘missus’ became ‘missis’ is as funny as it is simple: it just didn’t sound right. But even though so much has changed, the two shortened forms remained the same. It seems like sometimes the history of an abbreviation is more interesting than that of a word!


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