(Greek -issa > Late Latin -issa > Old French -esse > Middle English -esse: a suffix that forms nouns meaning a female +++, as in lioness, tigress, heiress, hostess, and sculptress)

When -ess is added to a noun ending in -tor, -ter, the vowel before r is generally elided (eliminated or left out), as in actress (actor + -ess); and such a derivative with the ending -tress (often equivalent to French ) is usually considered a reduced form of Latin -trix, -tricem and popularly regarded as the equivalent of -tor + -ess.

In Middle English many words in -esse were adopted from French; such as, countess, duchess, mistress, and princess, or formed on nouns in -er; such as, enchantress and sorceress.

—Based on information presented in
The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, Robert K. Barnhart, Editor;
The H.W. Wilson Company; Bronxville, New York; 1988; page 343.

The suffix -ess is diminishing from English usage, with trends or tendencies toward avoiding any unnecessary references to gender or sexual categorizing (feminine or masculine.

The suffixes -er and -or are no longer gender-specific in modern English: an author or manager, like a doctor or writer, may be male or female, so the words authoress and manageress are considered redundant.

Some -ess words remain in use; for example, heiress and actress, although actor is being used more often now for both men and women.

empress (s) (noun), empresses (pl)
1. The female ruler of an empire: "Catherine the Great was Empress of Russia for sixty-seven years."
2. The spouse or widow of an emperor: Catherine I of Russia, who succeeded her husband, was empress for only two years."
enchantress (s) (noun), enchantresses (pl)
1. A woman who is charming, delightful, and of great charm or fascination.
2. A woman who casts spells or who practices magic; a sorceress.
governess (s) (noun), governesses (pl)
A woman entrusted with the care and supervision of a child: A governess is especially employed by those living in a private home.

In addition, a governess is a woman engaged to teach children in their own homes, and sometimes also to care for the children.

A woman who worships idols.
laundress (s) (noun), laundresses (pl)
A woman who does washing and ironing; especially, one who does other people's washing and ironing as a way of earning a living.
mistress (s) (noun), mistresses (pl)
1. A woman with whom a man has a usually long-term extramarital sexual relationship: In the story, Mr. Tall had a mistress for whom he provided financial support, and he hoped his wife would never know about it!
2. A woman who owns or controls something: After her husband passed away, Mrs. Smart became the mistress of her household.
3. A female teacher: Judy used the old-fashioned term to describe her mother as being the mistress of her class at school.
4. The female owner of a dog: The little Yorkshire terrier sat on the lap of its mistriss.
5. A woman who is highly skilled in a particular activity: There are a few real mistresses of mystery novels, including Agatha Christie.