a. One that receives or benefits from a specified action: addressee.
b. One that possesses a specified thing: mortgagee.
2. One that performs a specified action: absentee.
[Middle English, from Old French -e, -ee, past participle suff., from Latin -ātus; see -ATE1.]
Usage Note: The suffix -ee has its origins in the French passive participle ending -é (feminine -ée). It was first used in English to refer to indirect objects and then to direct objects of transitive verbs, particularly in legal contexts (as in donee, lessee, or trustee) and in military and political jargon (draftee, trainee, or nominee). Typically the action of the verb happens to the person being described by the noun—a draftee is a person who is drafted, not a person who drafts other people. Beginning around the mid-19th century, primarily in American English, the -ee suffix was extended to denote the subject of an intransitive verb, as in standee ("a person who stands") and returnee ("a person who returns"). The coining of new words ending in -ee continues to be common. A number of these coinages, such as honoree, deportee, and escapee, have become widely accepted. But many others are created on an ad-hoc basis and tend to have a comic effect. Thus, a firee is one who is fired from a job, a jokee is one who is the subject of a joke, and a roastee is one who is ridiculed at a roast. On rare occasions the suffix -ee has been applied to noun forms, giving us words like benefactee (from benefactor) and to transitive verbs where the subject refers to the agent of the action, such as attendee (one who attends a conference).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.