I almost don't hear the word actress anymore from the mouths of anchors or hosts. The female actress has become an actor.

Is it currently practiced everywhere? To natives - have you every called them actress or they are just actors and not even female actors?

If I use a female actor, will it sound normal? If I prefer only actress, is that okay?

  • I hear actor most often in the US, but people still say actress. – snailplane May 23 '14 at 7:35
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    In the US, I have heard actress quite frequently, and cannot immediately recall an instance of [female] actor referring to a woman. It's possible I'm just not remembering; but actress is the preferred and most common term in my experience. Of course, I have heard actor many times, but it referred to a man. I have heard actors used to mean a group of both men and women, though. – Esoteric Screen Name May 23 '14 at 7:50

The female term for things are not really en vogue anymore. Comedienne, Actress, Hostess, all these things are gradually being phased out it seems. Just the natural evolution of the English language. Either way is fine really.


Let me start of with referencing two articles, one from the UK and the other from the US.

The Guardian has this nice article from 2011: https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2011/sep/25/readers-editor-actor-or-actress

When the Observer and the Guardian published their new joint style guide last year, this clause appeared: "Use for both male and female actors; do not use actress except when in name of award, eg Oscar for best actress."

It was the guide's view that "actress comes into the same category as authoress, comedienne, manageress, 'lady doctor', 'male nurse' and similar obsolete terms that date from a time when professions were largely the preserve of one sex (usually men).

As Whoopi Goldberg put it in an interview with the paper: 'An actress can only play a woman. I'm an actor – I can play anything.'

There is normally no need to differentiate between the sexes – and if there is, the words male and female are perfectly adequate: Lady Gaga won a Brit in 2010 for best international female artist.

Tellingly, the (UK) performers' union Equity has no policy on this. "We don't feel there is a consensus," said a spokesman. "In fact, the subject divides the profession."

On the same topic, here is another article from 2009 in the LA times: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jan/18/entertainment/ca-actress18

As anyone who follows entertainment news has become aware over the last decade or so, most thespians of the female persuasion now refer to themselves as actors, not actresses. Journalists and other nonactors, to varying degrees, are getting with the gender-neutral program. On the one hand this change in usage is informed by the egalitarian impulse that has pushed aside "stewardess" for "flight attendant" and, less successfully, "waitress" for the ungainly "waitperson" or ambience-free "server."

On the other hand, it points up the limits of language neutrality and the unique qualities of the acting profession, raising questions with particular resonance in this long season of awards.

Methods of interpreting dramatic roles may vary from school to school, performer to performer, but there is no gender-defined difference in process. An actor is an actor. Still, that raises the question of award categories. If there is no difference in craft between men and women, why separate them when it's time to celebrate their accomplishments? The goal of an equal-opportunity spotlight is laudable, but how long is it necessary?

The Screen Actors Guild, which might be considered the last word on what working performers believe, continues to divide its honors between men and women, as do most organizations, critics' groups and festivals that present acting awards.

Coming to your questions:

Is it currently practiced everywhere? To natives - have you every called them actress or they are just actors and not even female actors?

I think the two articles above indicate how we might be moving to using the gender-neutral word actor, across both sides of the Atlantic. Given there aren't any strong negative connnotations to the word actress, this change would be slow and may never fully take effect. Here in India, the term actor is often used to refer to both men and women who act.

If I use a female actor, will it sound normal? If I prefer only actress, is that okay?

I'd probably put the question back to you and ask why do you want to specify the gender? It might probably boil down to one of two things:

  • If it is the name of an award then it seems acceptable to use "actress" (as mentioned above).
  • On the other hand, if you're doing a casting call (a role that needs 2 men and 3 women) you might prefer saying "I need 2 male and 3 female actors".

Also, take a look at the same question that was asked on ELU: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/3349/female-actor-or-actress

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