Is the difference between "confidante" vs. "confident" the gender of the subject?

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I observe that the word confidante has circa 3,2001 hits on The New York Times. And I also observe that on the same newspaper the word confident has ca. 148,000 hits.

3,200 seems to me a remarkable number. As is well known, confidante is used only for women, while confident is used both for men and women.

So the question is: Does this represent a persistent tendency to preserve sexism in language? Or are there cases in which confidante is preferable, for whatever reason?

1Searching from other countries could have different results.

user114

Posted 2013-03-04T16:20:20.490

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8

I'm confident that, in many of those 148,000 hits, the word being used as adjective, not as a noun.

– J.R. – 2013-03-04T16:23:04.237

2If OP has accidentally misspelt the masculine form (which should be confidant), it's General Reference. But since that isn't a valid reason for closevoting, I'm going for Too Localised. FWIW, Google Books has 180 instances of *she is my confidant*, as against only 280 for *he is my confidant*, showing that many Anglophones don't bother with the gender-specific spelling anyway. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-03-04T17:22:27.837

2@FumbleFingers I disagree with closing as Too Localized. This is a common mistake made by English Language Learners. – snailplane – 2013-03-04T18:17:02.113

1@FumbleFingers: I agree with snailplane about leaving the question open. Still, I upvoted your comment because I appreciated your research and data. – J.R. – 2013-03-04T18:21:29.330

The noun is confidAnt, isn't it? And I never knew it has a feminine version. – Martha – 2013-03-04T19:49:56.163

5Although English has fiancé and fiancée, blond and blonde, confidant and confidante, divorcé and divorcée, etc., many people use such pairs interchangeably. Others use a single version (blonde, divorcee, etc.) for both genders. So, I don't personally think it is well known, as you put it. – snailplane – 2013-03-04T19:53:09.813

@Martha, yes, and Burchfield (1996), Canadian English Usage (1997) and Garner (1998) emphasize the need to use "confidante" for women only. – None – 2013-03-04T19:58:40.660

I feel this question goes (way) beyond the scope of ell. Should've probably been on en.se. It really does not help people who learn English as a second language. – deutschZuid – 2013-03-04T21:14:42.480

1@Carlo_R.: OK, but what do those usage guides say about always using confidant, regardless of gender? Like I said, I don't think I ever realized that the word confidante exists, and I certainly have never used it. – Martha – 2013-03-04T21:35:34.803

@Carlo_R., also, do you really and truly think the masculine version is confident with an E, or is that just a typo? If the former, this question needs to be closed as too localized. If the latter, please edit your question to fix the typo. – Martha – 2013-03-04T21:37:32.900

@James yes, perhaps I should have write the question giving more emphasis to the fact itself. – None – 2013-03-04T21:40:57.793

@Martha, I edited the question, but I could not make more than what I have done because there is already an answer to preserve. – None – 2013-03-04T21:54:54.963

I think it's better to preserve the error, because the confusion of "confidante" and "confident" is 1. common among ELLs and 2. caused the large disparity in number that led to the question. Preserving the mistake will make the question easier to find for those who make the same error in the future. – snailplane – 2013-03-04T22:03:30.703

@Martha, I tried editing this question, but since there is no agreement on the correction I rollbacked it into the earlier version. Then perhaps the better thing to do is voting to close. – None – 2013-03-04T22:20:00.930

Answers

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These are different words.

Confidante is a noun meaning ‘a person in whom one confides’. Both this, the feminine form, and the masculine form confidant without the feminine -e ending have been borrowed from French, in which language it derives from a participle. English preserves the gender distinction, which is not, I think, particularly sexist: the words are generally used of particular relationships in which it may be significant to distinguish male and female friends. It is, at any rate, no more sexist than the distinction between boyfriend and girlfriend.

Confident is an adjective, meaning ‘sure of oneself’ when used without modification, or sure, trusting of [another]. It is derived directly from Latin. Like other English adjectives, it is not inflected

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Posted 2013-03-04T16:20:20.490

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