The conference drew over 1,000 attendees.

This use of the word attendee seems wrong. I usually think of the "ee" suffix as indicating the subject or recipient of an action. (An employee is one who is employed, a payee is one who is paid, etc.) In the given sentence, it sounds as though the conference is seeing to the needs of the people who were there, when the meaning is probably intended to be "more than 1,000 people were there".

I would expect that the correct word to use here is attender, as in "one who attends". (Not attendant, "one who accompanies".) Is this a situation where the incorrect form is used so much that it becomes correct through force majeure? Is it not actually an instance of the "ee" suffix at all?

  • 5
    It's the correct form because that's what everyone says and writes. Complaining doesn't change things.
    – user264
    Apr 16, 2013 at 14:09
  • 1
    I've never heard the word "attender" before, but if I had to guess, I would assume that it meant the same thing as "attendant" rather than "attendee".
    – Daniel
    Apr 16, 2013 at 14:19
  • Related: english.stackexchange.com/q/46433/8278
    – Pacerier
    Apr 14, 2018 at 8:54

6 Answers 6


Attendee means, "a person who attends a meeting, etc."

Attender is a word that is used especially in British English to mean, "a person who goes to a place or an event, often on a regular basis." As the OALD says, in North American English you would say attendee in this case too.

  • I guess that's why I've never heard the word "attender". I'm from the US. :)
    – Daniel
    Apr 16, 2013 at 14:58
  • 2
    Although for someone who attends something regularly, I would call him a "regular attendee" rather than just an "attendee"
    – Daniel
    Apr 16, 2013 at 15:01
  • Weird. I never heard or read the word "attendee", but I have of "attender". I'm not from the US, but I'm also not from the UK... Nov 12, 2017 at 14:42

I reviewed some examples of these words in instances linked from ngrams for attendee,attender. Senses of attender visible in those instances include: one who attends to some task; one who is present at an event; and one who makes a practice of being present at events. Typically, only the second of those senses applies to attendee. An attender exhibits volition; an attendee need not.

Note, wiktionary shows another sense for attendee: “(uncommon) A person who is attended”. Attender cannot take that sense, while attendee almost never takes the sense “one who attends to some task”.


Sometimes words using these suffixes come in pairs. The -er is the person that performs the action, and the -ee is the person that receives the action. For example, an employer (gives the employment) and employee (receives the employment). However that is not the case here.

I would say "attendee" here. "Attender" is not a word that I've heard before. It sounds constructed. I think this is just for idiomatic reasons and I suspect there is not a good explanation. Sometimes you just have to memorize irregular words, and I think this is one of them.

  • Re "not a word that I've heard"; See my answer; tldr: "attendant".
    – Pacerier
    Apr 14, 2018 at 8:55

I'm sorry you've never heard the word "attender" before. Where I used to work we had an Irregular Attender Procedure (for people who did not attend work regularly - i.e. had too much sick leave) and a survey for the Colston Hall in Bristol (England) recently asked if my experience was affected by "other attenders".

IMHO attendee started off in management circles which are populated people who are barely literate but want to speak in a way they think befits their station - these are the sort of people who will happily say "beginning" or "start" at home, but at work talk about "commencement".

And attendee is only the most common example of this nonsense - see "Standee" (someone who stands on a bus apparently). This problem was highlighted back in 2005 (along with attendee) - see here http://www.theguardian.com/comment/story/0,,1461206,00.html

  • 1
    Your slur on the people who created "attendee" is unwarranted. It does appear to be American, but it has been around since the 1960s. "Retiree" goes back to the 1930s, and "standee" to 1850s. What these have in common is that they are all effectively intransitive. ("Attend" is transitive, but the object in the common sense is an event). The "-ee" has thus become a rare example in English of ergative/absolutive patterning, where the same grammatical form is used for the object of a transitive and the subject of an intransitive verb - semantically the "experiencer".
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 18, 2016 at 20:54

≪attend≫ means ≪give attention≫. Thus attenders are the ones giving attention and ≪attendees≫ are the ones receiving the attention.

It can sometimes be very subjective especially where money is involved.

  • "I attend the event" (..sounds like an obligation)
  • "I am an attendee at the event" (..sounds more like a beneficiary)

(Usage notes: It so seems that commonly, event invitees are attendees, thus receiving attention in exchange for giving currency ($$$, either directly or indirectly). The attenders of that event gives attention in exchange for receiving currency. Rarely are invitees attenders, unless of course one is "invited" to attend to the mess after the event, then he is really an attender/attendant even while others may convince him that he is an attendee.)


I agree wholeheartedly with the view that this is incorrect use of the word, which has become common largely by imitation - and lack of thought.
I must admit that this has only occurred to me recently, but I will do my best to correct the situation - by using the word attender wherever possible (provided it refers to someone who has attended an event)!


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