Word of the Day



1. a teacher in a college or university

2. someone who gives private lessons in a particular subject

Origin and usage

The word tutor comes via Old French from the Latin ‘tutor’, meaning a guardian or watcher, from the root ‘tueri’ which means ‘to watch over’. ‘Tueri’ may derive from the Sanskrit word, ‘tavas’, which translates as strength, so the etymology clearly shows the term’s association with the idea of protection. The word ‘tuteor’ was in use in 13th century France, where it referred to a private teacher or guardian of a junior undertaking their studies.


While tutoring meets the same requirements of formal classroom learning, the methods that tutors employ and the situation surrounding the tutor and student in general are quite different. In most tutoring situations, the ratio of teacher to learner is dramatically lower than a typical classroom setting, which allows greater flexibility in the lessons. The popularity of tutors is somewhat dependent on the accessibility of formal education as well as the cultural expectations of the society in which they tutor.

Since the times of the Ancient Greeks, tutoring has been regarded as an alternative or supplement to formal learning settings where a student can employ a knowledgeable person to receive assistance in their education. The increase in mainstream access to formal education has, from the 20th century onwards, inadvertently increased the demand for tutors. This is because tutors are seen as a way of supplementing educational systems that are potentially susceptible to overcrowding and with less opportunity for personal attention.


“My favourite author is Anton Chekhov, not so much for the plays but for his short stories, and I think he was really my tutor.”

(Gene Wilder)

“Newspapers are tutors as well as informers.”

(Neil Kinnock)


teacher, coach, educator

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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