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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Walters

"Massage Therapist" vs "Masseuse"

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

The terms “masseuse” (female) and “masseur” (male), are a French originating title stemming from the word, masseur which means to knead or rub. This title refers to a manual therapist who is trained in soft tissue manipulations. While massage therapy was utilized during the colonial period of the United States (view Brief History: Massage Therapy), the titles, “masseuse” and “masseur” were common in the 1800s. By the 1900s, “massage” had become the primary terminology for this type of manual therapy.

Up until the 1950s, manual therapist of this nature were called masseuse/-eurs. In the 1960s, the term changed to massage therapists due to the significant amount of prostitutes operating under the guise of a masseuse in order to more publically operate their business without attracting the eye of the law upon them. Similarly during this time, a “massage parlor” was another term meaning a house of prostitution.

In 1958, the American Association of Masseuses and Masseurs changed their name to American Massage and Therapy Association (AMTA), thus giving legitimacy to massage as a health profession as well as encouraged the term of “massage therapist” to be used by the general public. During this shift, there was also a push for more strict regulations on how individuals become massage therapists. State regulations were created. The requirement for schooling in body sciences such as pathology and anatomy in addition to teachings in professional draping, hundreds of clinical hours, and other core techniques in order to gain professional accreditation as a licensed massage therapist. These regulations protected the title of licensed and certified massage therapists exclusively to those who had completed the schooling for it. Additionally, massage therapists are required to maintain their license of practice which includes taking Continuing Education Credits to stay up to date on techniques and best ethical practices. A masseuse or masseur does not have professional licensing nor are they required to stay up to date on best practices.

It’s common for massage therapists to correct their clients’ terminology. As massage therapist, Robin Wooten LMT states, “We massage therapist have a duty to educate the public... It’s the uneducated public that uses terms we deem offensive —it is also the uneducated public who use offensive terms without knowing those terms carry a past connotation.” (Massage 37 link citation)


All Body Kneads (2017, Apr. 19). Masseuse or Maseur vs Massage Therapist [blog post]. Retrieved from

Meehan, Karen. (2015, Mar. 18). Massage Titles Matter: Why We Don’t Use Masseuse [blog post]. Retrieved from


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