I was wondering when I should use these words: 'hostess', 'air hostess', 'stewardess' and 'flight attendant'. What are the differences between them?

Some examples:

One of the conference hostesses was very young.

That's why I also want to study several languages, to become an air hostess.

She worked as an airline stewardess.

Which should I use in each case?

Should I use "hostess" or "stewardess" for the people who help at conferences?

  • 4
    Flight attendant is the preferred term nowadays because it's gender neutral. This is similar to police officer or firefighter which have largely replaced policeman and fireman. More generally, the difference between stewardess and hostess is the same as the difference between steward and host (consult a dictionary).
    – Era
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 17:53
  • 1
    @Era Interestingly, the definition of host and hostess is different among many of the dictionaries I checked. Only the feminine hostess has the sense of steward or stewardess listed, and steward doesn't list host as a synonym. It's odd, although I only checked US English.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 19:02
  • I presume the link between "hostess" and "stewardess" comes from airlines where the same people are handling both providing services to the passengers and maintaining order in the cabin. This was/is a stereotypically female job. I don't think i've ever heard "air host" or "air steward". Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 13:21

1 Answer 1


To me as a native British English speaker, hostess implies hospitality - she would be there to make your experience a good one. She could be the hostess of a dinner party, or a conference, making sure that the visitors have enough drinks and answering their questions, basically just keeping them comfortable.

However, stewardess implies keeping people 'in order', 'controlling' the people, and so you would have a stewardess at a cycling race or to keep crowds under control.

However, as Era said, it's considered a little backwards to use stewardess and hostess.

  • I agree strongly with your first paragraph. As to your second, though, I think stewardess usually conjures up images of flight attendants, or maybe cruise ship workers – not cycling races or marathons.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 22:00
  • @J.R. Actually I think that might be confusing two different senses of the word "steward". You can have an event steward that is responsible for managing the crowds at an event, for example: assetwatchltd.co.uk/training/event-steward-training.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 0:19
  • @ColleenV - I realize that's a valid usage of the word, but I don't think it's what most native speakers would think of – at least not initially.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 15:02
  • @J.R I don't disagree for AmE, but I wonder if it's different in BrE.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 21:56

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