Word of the Day


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an experienced person who helps someone who has less experience, especially in their job

Origin and usage

The noun mentor dates from 1750 and came into English from French. The word is derived from the character Mentor in Homer’s ‘Odyssey’. In the poem, Mentor is a friend of Odysseus, and the goddess Athena appears in his likeness to Odysseus’s son Telemachus as a guide and adviser. In the first hundred years of so of its use in English mentor was written with a capital letter, marking its status as an eponym.


A mentor is an adviser, especially an older and experienced person who helps a younger one. Although the word is used generally to refer to any older person who helps and advises a younger one, the role is often formalized  in business and education, with mentors being assigned to new employees or students to help and guide them in the early stages. Mentor started to be used as a verb in the early part of the 20th century. The noun mentee, for a person who is being mentored, was coined in the US in the 1960s based on the earlier verb and noun, and along the same lines as other nouns for recipients or doers of actions, such as ‘trainee’ and ‘escapee’.


“My dad was my best friend and greatest role model. He was an amazing dad, coach, mentor, soldier, husband and friend.”
(Tiger Woods)

“If you’re early on in your career and they give you a choice between a great mentor or higher pay, take the mentor every time.”
(Stanley Druckenmiller)

Related words

career coach, counsellor, life coach, role model

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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