The words master and mister are confusing. They are spelled with only one letter’s difference, but they do not reference the same meanings. To make things even more complicated, master has more than one meaning, and one has dropped out of modern usage.
Both master and mister are male titles in English. To whom does each word apply? What are the other possible meanings of these terms? To find out, you will have to continue reading this article, in which I explain the differences between these two terms.
What is the Difference Between Master and Mister?
In this post, I will compare master vs. mister. I will use each of these words in example sentences to demonstrate their use in context.
I will also tell you a mnemonic device that will let you easily remember whether to use mister or master for a given person.
When to Use Master
What does master mean? Master is a title for an underage male. If a person is under 18, master would be used. Once a person turns 18 and enters adulthood, mister would be used.
Today, however, master is antiquated and appears only rarely. Where a title is necessary, mister is more likely to appear for both children and adults. See the example below for a possible usage.
- “Master Pippin, the headmistress complains that you have shirked your studies again to go rollicking on the hillside,” accused the butler.
Master has other functions as a noun, an adjective, and a verb.
As a noun, master can also mean one who is in charge of something.
Here are a few examples,
- “I am the master of my fate!” screamed Cecilia.
- Sir Commerford is master-of-arms here at the castle.
As an adjective, master means having or showing very great skill or proficiency.
- I am the master printmaker here at the studio.
- In prints, Segers was both a master technician and a visionary, besotted with color, fascinated by the textures possible with both the etching needle and other processes like the sugar lift, which he invented. –The New York Times
As a verb, master means acquire complete knowledge or skill.
- I need to master my piano skill before I play publicly.
- In order to master my English, I visit Writing Explained.
When to Use Mister
What does mister mean? Mister is a title for an adult male. Its abbreviation, Mr., is much more widespread than the spelled out word.
Here are a few examples,
- “Excuse me, mister, could you spare some change so I can make a phone call?” said the man at the pay phone.
- “Mr. Ambrosio told me to tell you that he mailed the package two days ago,” said Taliesin.
- The talented Mr. Schoff will now demonstrate the use of his patented flameproof jumpsuit.
- The driver lets him out just south of Nashville, and when the speaker in the song calls him Mister, the gaunt figure at the wheel says there’s no need, that everyone simply calls him Hank. –The Washington Post
An entirely different meaning of mister is a device, such as a bottle, with a nozzle for spraying a mist of water. Such devices are commonly used around the house to do chores.
- I use the mister over there to water the plants.
- The cat was scratching on the chair, so I sprayed him with the mister.
Trick to Remember the Difference
Choose mister as a title for an adult male. Choose master for someone who is in charge of something.
If you are writing period fiction, you could also use master as a title for a male who has not yet come of age. In contemporary English, however, this title is no longer commonly used.
Since master and in charge both contain the letter A, use the shared letter between those words as a tool remember when to use the word master.
Is it master or mister? Titles, honorifics, and other designations can be difficult to remember, especially for non-native speakers.
- Mister is a title for an adult male.
- Master is a title for a minor male, or someone who is in charge of something.
Since master and charge both contain the letter A, you can use that letter as a reminder of when to use master.
Remember to check this site any time you have questions about difficult or confusing English words.