‘Mrs.’, ‘Ms.’ and ‘Miss’ are generally used to represent a woman’s marital status. It can be easy to use, but it can also be tricky especially with ‘Ms.’ and ‘Miss’ that appear to pertain to the same concept. Using the right formal prefix may not be that important to some, but it can also be a sign of respect to others.
Mrs., also known as Mrs (Without the period at the end) in British English, is a title commonly used in prefixing a woman’s name if she is married and does not use a different title or rank (Dr., President, Dame, Ms. etc.). Usually, the period at the end of ‘Mrs.’ is not required or not needed in most Commonwealth countries. Northern America however uses a period. ‘Mrs.’ originated from the honorific Mistress (feminine of a mister/master) that pertained to both married and unmarried women. The title prefixes ‘Mrs.’ and ‘Miss’ only began during the 17th century. Later in the 20th century, the unmarked option ‘Ms.’ came out.
- Traditionally, it was mostly used by a woman when married in conjunction with her husband’s first and last names but it is now rarely used this way. (e.g. Mrs. John Smith)
- Often used to describe a man’s female partner. (e.g. John is bringing his Mrs. for dinner)
- A title many married women use with their spouse’s last name, while retaining their first name. (e.g. Mrs. Jane Smith)
Ms. is an English language honorific that is used with the full name of a woman and intended to be the default form of address. The term originated from the first title that was once used for all women, ‘Mistress’. It was only revived and revised in the 20th century, with its plural forms ‘Mss.’, ‘Mses.’, and ‘Mmes.’.
With its usage, there are many questions including suggestions on how and whether it should be used at all. Some say that ‘Ms.’ would remove the need for someone to determine (or reveal) the marital status of a woman, while some say that it’s an ugly title. Some etiquette writers even state that it is not very helpful.
- A marital-neutral honorific title for women.
- A title considered to be normally correct in addressing a woman, regardless of her marital status.
- A title used that needn’t involve figuring out whether to address someone as ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs.’, whether married or unmarried, and whether she has changed her name or not. (e.g. Ms. Jane Doe)
- A preferred title for business purposes as stated by some etiquette writers. (e.g. Ms. Jane Smith)
Miss is an English language honorific that is traditionally used for unmarried woman exclusively. As with ‘Mrs.’, it originated in the 17th century as a contraction of the word Mistress. Its plural form is Misses. Formerly, it was the default title for businesswomen, but has now been replaced by ‘Ms.’
- A proper title used in addressing all young ladies. (e.g. Can I help you, Miss?)
- A title sometimes used irrespective of marital status with a woman’s first name. (e.g. Miss Jane)
- A title used in upper class households (a social class composed of the wealthiest members of society) by servants to address unmarried ladies of the household.
- A title used for a beauty queen (where most pageants require unmarried contestants, e.g. Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss America)
Mrs. vs Ms. vs Miss
What’s the difference between Mrs., Ms., and Miss? You might think that it’s simply about a woman’s marital status, but little did you know that each one could mean something else.
Generally, ‘Mrs.’ is a title used for married women, and ‘Miss’, a title for unmarried women. ‘Ms.’ on the other hand, seems like a word that’s taken from the word ‘Miss’, but in truth, it isn’t. They all originated from the word ‘Mistress’ and ‘Ms’ is used for all women regardless of their marital status.
Now differentiating ‘Mrs.’ from ‘Miss’ and ‘Ms.’, the answer is somewhat obvious. Differentiating ‘Miss’ and ‘Ms.’ however is not that obvious. Phonetically, it is almost identical, but ‘Miss’ should be pronounced as /’mis/, while ‘Ms.’ is supposed to be pronounced as /’miz/, /məz/, or /məs/ when unstressed. Also, while ‘Miss’ is mostly used for single women, ‘Ms.’ however can be used for all women, married or unmarried.
To sum up, ‘Mrs.’ is a title for married women, ‘Miss’ a title for unmarried women, and ‘Ms.’ a title for both married and unmarried women. For business circles and official contexts, ‘Mrs.’ and ‘Miss’ are acceptable, but ‘Ms.’ is said to be the proper default title.
|Pronounced as /ˈmɪsᵻz/)||Pronounced as /’miz/, /məz/, or /məs/||pronounced as /’mis/|
|Used by married women||Used by women regardless of their marital status||Used by unmarried women|
|Plural form is Mmes. and Mesdames||Plural form is Mss., Mses., and Mmes.||Plural form is Misses|
|Originated in 17th century||Originated in 20th century||Originated in 17th century|
Here is a video differentiating the formal titles ‘Mr.’, ‘Mrs.’, ‘Ms.’, and ‘Miss’.