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Divorcée, divorcé, divorcee

divorcée is a woman who has divorced, and a divorcé is a man who has divorced. The words come directly from French, which unlike English uses masculine and feminine forms for most nouns denoting people. In French, divorcé is the past participle of the verb divorcer. When the past participle is used as a noun and made feminine, it takes an extra e. This is true of all regular -er French verbs and their noun derivatives.

But while divorcée and divorcé are still common, many English publications now use the sex-neutral divorcee—no accent—for both men and women who have been divorced. This form is especially common in British publications.

Examples

These writers use the accented forms correctly:


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In “Under the Yum-Yum Tree” (1960), she played Irene Wilson, the divorcée who briefly attracts the roving eye of Gig Young. [NY Times]

Romano plays recent divorcé Joe Tranelli, a former pro golfer and gambling addict who owns a party supply store. [AV Club]

Divorce rates climbed in the 1970s and soon America even elected a divorcé, Ronald Reagan. [The Atlantic]

The unaccented divorcee, for both men and women, has gained ground, however. Here are a few examples:

As a refugee in Britain she married an Englishman, divorcee George Key, in 1948. [Telegraph]

Or is someone going to tell them that, in the current climate, they stand out like a middle-aged divorcee at a Katy Perry gig?  [New Zealand Herald]

Romney urged church member and divorcee Peggie Hayes to give up her newborn son for adoption. [Salon]

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