Posted by: Jack Henry | April 18, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Mentors

A very happy end of the week to you all! Today I have another question from the blog mailbox:

Dear Editrix,

Does a mentor have a protégé or a mentee? I’ve recently heard mentee but it sounds like a made up word.

Alan (a credit union fan)

Dear Alan,

My apologies that this comes four months after you sent the question.

I’ve often wondered about the legitimacy of the word mentee, too. We have good reason to think that someone who is mentored (tutored, coached, taught) would be called a mentee because of a common pattern in English. We take a word, like advise, lease, or mortgage and then add an –or or –er to indicate the person who is making or doing something with that word; then we add –ee to indicate the person who is receiving or benefitting from the item or action. It’s easier to look at some common examples to see this pattern:

Act/Object Actor One receiving or benefitting from the action
advise/advice advisor advisee
bail out/bail bailer bailee
employ/employment employer employee
grant/grant grantor grantee
lease/lease lessor lessee
mentoring/mentorship mentor mentee
mortgage to/mortgage mortgagor mortgagee
pay/payment payer payee
trust/trust trustor trustee

Yes, dear Alan, mentee has been a word meaning “one who is mentored,” or protégé, since 1965. And now for some additional definitions, from Merriam-Webster:

· manatee (not to be confused with mentee)
A large animal that lives in warm waters and eats plants

· protégé (male); protégée (female)
A young person who is taught and helped by someone who has a lot of knowledge and experience; one who is protected or trained or whose career is furthered by a person of experience, prominence, or influence

Two manatees hanging out in Florida, discussing the dangers of motorboats:

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

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