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Here Are The Correct Terms for People Who Give Massages

Here Are The Correct Terms for People Who Give Massages

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Massage is a form of pain relief that has been around for thousands of years.

Put simply, in a massage the idea is to manipulate muscles and other body tissues on a patient to relieve pain and increase flexibility.

Many are familiar with the practice, even if they haven’t given one before, but one thing not many people know is what you call someone who gives a massage.

A massager? A masseuse? A massagist or something even more obscure?

There seem to be a dozen different terms. This article will teach you the right one to use.


Correct terms for people who give massages

This is a seemingly simple question with a complicated answer. First off, do not use the word “massager” for people, as it refers primarily to objects which massage.

If you are talking about someone who has been licensed or certified, use the term “massage therapist.”

If the person in question does not have a license in massage therapy but is still a professional, the word “masseur” or “masseuse” may be the correct choice.

But keep in mind these words can carry implications that the person is providing more”intimate services” in some contexts or cultures.

If the person giving the massage does not do so regularly or professionally, for instance a friend or significant other none of these terms are appropriate and you would be better off just saying “my friend who gave me a massage.”


Massage therapy: massaging as medicine

Today, many people practice massage as a profession.

There are a number of ways to do this and one is called massage therapy, described by the National Institutes of Health as massage to “help manage a health condition or enhance wellness.”

The word to use for someone who practices massage therapy is “massage therapist,” but because this is a regulated field of practice this name is not appropriate for just anyone.

Regulations vary by location, but in most places in the United States massage therapists must complete a certain number of credit hours in a university setting and undergo a background check as well as pass a special exam.

Candidates who successfully achieve all of these steps can then get certified from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.

It is a non-profit organization that exists solely to regulate the industry and ensure that massage therapists meet the highest possible standards.

If the person giving you a massage is employed by an occupational therapy office, a chiropractor, a hospital system or some other location that is in some way associated with the clinical practice of medicine, chances are good that “massage therapist” is the best way to refer to them.

In the US, you can look for the acronyms LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist) or BCTMB (Board Certification in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork) on your practitioner’s business card or other official form of communication.

These show that they have been either licensed or certified to work as a massage therapist.

In short, though, this is a word you should avoid using to describe someone unless you know for sure they have earned it.


Masseuse and Masseur

Outside of licensing, the most common words to refer to people who give massages in a professional setting are the paired words “masseuse” and “masseur.”

If they don’t look like English words, that’s because they’re actually French.

Another thing to keep in mind about this pair is that they are gendered.

That is, you should only use “masseuse” for a woman who practices massage and “masseur” for a man who does so.

One trick to remembering which is which is to think of “masseuse” like “actress.” Both end in an ‘s’ sound, so both are for women.

If you’re looking for a word for someone who professionally practices massage but who doesn’t use the word “massage therapist,” masseuse or masseur are your best bets.


Why you shouldn’t call a person a “massager”

Although this word seems perfectly reasonable, in common practice it refers more to machines or devices and not people.

For instance, a handheld wand that vibrates in a circular motion to relieve muscle tension might be called a massager.

It’s worth noting as well that “certain toys” designed for women are also often euphemistically called “massagers,” so you’re better off not calling a person this.

In some contexts the word can be applied to people.

For example, if you and a friend were both going to give each other a massage, you might ask “Would you like to be the massager first or second?”

But in most, if not all, cases it’s clearer to just use a verb. “Would you like to go first or second?”


Massage by someone who isn’t a professional

The above words are examples of what phrasing to use when the person who are receiving a massage from is a professional of some sort or another.

But what do you do when you just want to describe a massage you received from an amateur?

In this case, there is no specific word that unambiguously refers to a person giving a massage.

Words like “masseur” and “massage therapist,” which imply professional knowledge and standards, are not really appropriate.

The best option is to just describe the action itself rather than looking for a noun which describes the person.

Just as you wouldn’t call someone who occasionally plays football a “footballer,” you wouldn’t use a professional title for someone who just does massage every now and again for fun.



“My husband gave me a massage because my shoulders hurt.”

“Marie is such a good friend she even gave me a foot massage yesterday.”


Although these sentences are a little lengthy, don’t give in to the temptation to replace all those extra words with “masseuse” or another noun which implies a professional level of ability.

In the examples above, calling your husband a masseur might give people the wrong idea about your relationship.

And saying that someone is such a good friend that she was a massage therapist is definitely going to confuse people.


The complicated history of massage

Nobody knows exactly when massage began, but it has been practiced for at least 5000 years.

The location of the first massage is also impossible to pin down. Early records in books and murals from China, India and Egypt all show people practicing their art.

In Europe and the United States, the most common type of massage is known as Swedish massage.

This particular style of massage was created in the early 1800s by a Dutch doctor named Johann Geog Mezger and actually is not Swedish at all.

It’s known as Swedish massage due to confusion over the similar technique names used by Mezger and Per Henril Ling, a Swedish doctor and fencing instructor who also created massage-like techniques to ease aching muscles.

Swedish massage is not the only game in town, however.

Thai massage uses a combination of assisted yoga, the use of acupressure or pressure points and traditional understandings of the body.

In Bali, massage practitioners may strike and flick the skin and apply essential oils or heated stones.

There are also more modern types of massage like Watsu, a combination of Japanese shiatsu techniques, dance, massage and muscle stretching while mostly submerged in warm water.

All that aside, in most cases the basic question remains. Just what do you call someone who gives a massage?


The shortcut method

When all else fails and you’re still not sure what word to use to refer to the person giving you a massage, try the age-old method of asking them what term they prefer.