After 1660 in
England, when women first started to appear on stage, the terms actor or actress were initially used interchangeably for female performers, but later, influenced by the French
actrice, actress became the commonly used term for women in theater and film. The
etymology is a simple derivation from actor with ess added.
 However, when referring to groups of performers of both sexes, actors is preferred.
 Actor is also used before the full name of a performer as a gender-specific term. Within the profession, the re-adoption of the neutral term dates to the 1950–1960s, the
post-war period when the contributions of women to cultural life in general were being reviewed.
 "When the Observer and the Guardian published their new joint style guide in 2010, it stated "Use ["actor"] for both male and female actors; do not use actress except when in name of award, e.g. Oscar for best actress."
 The authors of the style guide stated that "actress comes into the same category as authoress, comedienne, manageress, 'lady doctor', 'male nurse' and similar obsolete terms that date from a time when professions were largely the preserve of one sex (usually men, see
male as norm). As
Whoopi Goldberg put it in an interview with the paper: 'An actress can only play a woman. I'm an actor – I can play anything.'"
 The U.K. performers' union Equity has no policy on the use of "actor" or "actress". An Equity spokesperson said that the union does not believe that there is a consensus on the matter and stated that the "...subject divides the profession."
 In 2009, the Los Angeles Times stated that "Actress" remains the common term used in major
acting awards given to female recipients
Academy Award for Best Actress).
With regard to the
cinema of the United States, the gender-neutral term "player" was common in film in the
silent film era and the early days of the
Motion Picture Production Code, but in the 2000s in a film context, it is generally deemed
archaic. However, "player" remains in use in the
theatre, often incorporated into the name of a theatre group or company, such as the
American Players, the
East West Players, etc. Also, actors in
improvisational theatre may be referred to as "players".