3

I observe that the word confidante has circa 3,2001 hits on The New York Times. And I also observe that on the same newspaper the word confident has ca. 148,000 hits.

3,200 seems to me a remarkable number. As is well known, confidante is used only for women, while confident is used both for men and women.

So the question is: Does this represent a persistent tendency to preserve sexism in language? Or are there cases in which confidante is preferable, for whatever reason?

1Searching from other countries could have different results.

14
  • 8
    I'm confident that, in many of those 148,000 hits, the word being used as adjective, not as a noun. – J.R. Mar 4 '13 at 16:23
  • 2
    If OP has accidentally misspelt the masculine form (which should be confidant), it's General Reference. But since that isn't a valid reason for closevoting, I'm going for Too Localised. FWIW, Google Books has 180 instances of she is my confidant, as against only 280 for he is my confidant, showing that many Anglophones don't bother with the gender-specific spelling anyway. – FumbleFingers Mar 4 '13 at 17:22
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers I disagree with closing as Too Localized. This is a common mistake made by English Language Learners. – snailplane Mar 4 '13 at 18:17
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers: I agree with snailplane about leaving the question open. Still, I upvoted your comment because I appreciated your research and data. – J.R. Mar 4 '13 at 18:21
  • 5
    Although English has fiancé and fiancée, blond and blonde, confidant and confidante, divorcé and divorcée, etc., many people use such pairs interchangeably. Others use a single version (blonde, divorcee, etc.) for both genders. So, I don't personally think it is well known, as you put it. – snailplane Mar 4 '13 at 19:53
14

These are different words.

Confidante is a noun meaning ‘a person in whom one confides’. Both this, the feminine form, and the masculine form confidant without the feminine -e ending have been borrowed from French, in which language it derives from a participle. English preserves the gender distinction, which is not, I think, particularly sexist: the words are generally used of particular relationships in which it may be significant to distinguish male and female friends. It is, at any rate, no more sexist than the distinction between boyfriend and girlfriend.

Confident is an adjective, meaning ‘sure of oneself’ when used without modification, or sure, trusting of [another]. It is derived directly from Latin. Like other English adjectives, it is not inflected

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy