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Mistress vs. Mister: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on November 11, 2023
"Mistress" refers to a woman in a position of authority, control, or an extramarital relationship with a man, while "mister" is a formal title for a man.

Key Differences

Mistress historically referred to a woman in a position of authority or ownership, similar to "master". In contrast, mister, often abbreviated as Mr., is a conventional title used before a man's surname or full name, traditionally indicating respect or a social rank.
In modern contexts, mistress can imply a woman who has a long-term extramarital relationship with a man. Mister, however, remains a neutral and respectful title for any adult male, irrespective of marital status or relationship.
Mistress can also denote a woman in a dominant position in certain contexts, like a female head of a household or a female teacher in the past. While, mister is uniformly used as a form of address and does not inherently convey a position of power or dominance.
Additionally, mistress can refer to a woman with skill in a specific area, similar to a 'master' craftsman. Mister, conversely, does not carry such connotations of skill or expertise in a particular field.
While mistress has various meanings, including authority, expertise, or being the other woman in an affair, mister is a straightforward term used as a formal address for men.

Comparison Chart


Woman in authority, extramarital partner, skilled woman
Formal title for a man


Authority, control, affair
Respect, neutrality


Varies with context (authority, relationship)
Uniformly as a formal address


Can imply dominance or expertise
Does not imply skill or expertise

Historical Context

Female equivalent of master, evolved meanings
Consistently used as a respectful title

Mistress and Mister Definitions


A woman in a position of authority.
She was the mistress of the estate.


Used to address an unknown man.
Excuse me, mister, you dropped this.


A woman skilled in something.
She was a mistress of painting.


Formal title for a man.
Mister Smith will join us shortly.


A woman having an affair with a married man.
She became known as his mistress.


Used in informal or casual contexts.
Hey, mister, can you help me?


A female teacher or educator.
The students respected their mistress.


Generic title for any male, regardless of marital status.
Mister Garcia is expected today.


Female head of a household.
The household staff obeyed the mistress.


A respectful term for an adult male.
That's Mister Jones, our neighbor.


A woman in a position of authority, control, or ownership, as the head of a household
"Thirteen years had seen her mistress of Kellynch Hall" (Jane Austen).


Used as a courtesy title before the surname, full name, or professional title of a man, usually written in its abbreviated form
Mr. Jones.
Mr. Secretary.


A woman who owns or keeps an animal
A cat sitting in its mistress's lap.


Used as the official term of address for certain US military personnel, such as warrant officers.


Mister Informal Used as a form of address for a man
Watch your step, mister.


What does mister mean?

A formal title for a man.

What is a mistress?

A woman in authority or having an affair with a married man.

Does mistress always mean an affair?

No, it can also mean a woman with authority or skill.

Is the term mistress outdated?

Some uses are outdated or have evolved in meaning.

Can mistress be a positive term?

Historically, yes, but it can have negative connotations in modern usage.

Is mister used for married men only?

No, it's used for adult men regardless of marital status.

Can mister be informal?

Yes, especially when used in casual speech.

What's a modern equivalent of mistress?

Partner or significant other, depending on context.

Can mistress refer to a teacher?

Historically, yes, particularly in the UK.

How is mister used in a professional setting?

As a formal address for male colleagues or clients.

Is it common to use mister with a first name?

Yes, in some cultures and informal settings.

Is mister respectful?

Yes, it’s a standard respectful address for men.

How do you abbreviate mister?

As Mr.

Can children use mister?

Yes, to address or refer to adult men.

How is mistress viewed in society?

It varies, often depending on the context.

Is mister a universal title?

While widely used, its formality varies across cultures.

How do you address a letter to a mister?

As "Mr. [Last Name]".

Can mistress mean a female master?

Historically, yes, in the sense of skill or craft.

Is the use of mistress in affairs changing?

Yes, it's less common in favor of more neutral terms.

Does mistress imply dominance?

It can in certain contexts, like BDSM.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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