Masseuse/Masseur is the French translation of a person who practices massage and physiotherapy professionally( masseuse is the female, masseur the male). The terms come from the French word masser.
I found this information on the origins of the word on a forum discussion of word origins:
The official dictionary of the French language says the French verb ‘’masser’’ meaning to massage is first attested in French in 1779—ref: CNRTL.fr, sup2—and the noun ‘’massage’’ is first attested in French in 1808—ref: CNRTL.fr
Who knew these terms could cause such a stir in the massage profession today. Whenever a discussion comes up on Facebook that asks about what to do when someone refers to you a a masseuse or masseur or even when I post an piece on the history of massage that refers to an old advertisement that uses the words masseur or masseuse, massage therapists take it personally. This cool tool from Google shows how the use of the words were more popular in the 1800’s, and 1900’s up to about 1980 when the word massage therapist started being used. The use of masseur, masseuse has finally dropped starting in 2010 or so according this chart. (updated 09/18/2021 – my original post said it had not dropped off and it hadn’t as of 2008)
The problem is that more and more the terms are often associated with prostitutes and illegal massage places that do more then massage. In many places in the US (mainly in the South and mid-west) though the words are commonly used to refer to a professional massage therapist. Even here in WA, I have been referred to as a masseuse.
Hopefully, there will just be more educating client and the general public about the use of these words. But really folks – it is no big deal! If someone calls you a masseuse/masseur -it is really OK because if they are calling you that, they don’t really know that those words are often associated with those ‘ other ‘ types of massage. It is just an innocent mistake. Many state boards of massage also use the term masseuse/masseur as a legitimate term that massage therapists may use to refer to themselves.
But just so everyone knows, Professional Massage Therapists have gone through massage school which is usually a minimum of 500 hours of training. Some have gone through much more. Massage therapists may also take extensive continuing education to improve their skills and knowledge. I think the massage professions main concern is to just make sure that there is no mistaking a professional massage therapist from ‘other’ types of so called massage that are illegal.
Movies/TV Series like “The Client List” don’t make it any easier for the massage profession either. The original movie showed that the women doing happy endings under the disguise of massage went to jail and the names of the men who visited that place were published in the local newspaper – Get it now – the real client list. It was actually based on a true story. I wrote about it previously here: wThe Client list and MT They weren’t called masseuses there anyways. They were actually called massage therapists from what I remember in the Movie that was the pilot for the TV series. I am not sure what they are calling them now in the tv series but don’t really care. Either way it is illegal activities done under the name of massage. That is more upsetting than someone calling me a masseuse!
Current Use of Masseur/Masseuse
Anyone who is using the works masseur/masseuse in 2021, needs to be corrected and told that we are massage therapists. Masseur/masseuse is a clear designation for sex worker.
See my updated article on this topic: Masseuse/Masseur