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Lookups spiked on July 24, 2012.


Amelia Earhart's 115th birthday anniversary prompted various media outlets to refer to her as an "aviatrix."

Aviatrix means "a woman who is a pilot." It's the feminine equivalent of aviator, and was often used to refer to Amelia Earhart, who vanished with her plane in 1937 while attempting to fly around the world. The word was most commonly used in the 1930s and 1940s before the role of "pilot" was well established; today, both aviator and aviatrix sound old-fashioned (yet still dashing).

The -trix ending of aviatrix comes directly from a Latin feminine ending. Today, it survives in only a few English words such as dominatrix and the legal terms testatrix and executrix. The more common -ess ending found in words such as actress and duchess came from Latin through French before being adopted by English.

(Learn more about Amelia Earhart.)

Photo: Amelia Earhart after becoming the first woman to make a solo nonstop transcontinental flight across the United States, August 24–25, 1932. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

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