In Greek mythology
: Μέντωρ / Méntōr
) was the son of Alcumus
and, in his old age, a friend of Odysseus
. When Odysseus left for the Trojan War
he placed Mentor in charge of his son, Telemachus
, and of his palace. When Athena
visited Telemachus she took the disguise of Mentor to hide herself from the suitors of Telemachus' mother Penelope
. As Mentor, the goddess encourages Telemachus to stand up against the suitors and to go abroad in order to learn out about his father.
When Odysseus returns to Ithaca, Athena (in the form of Mentor) takes the form of a swallow and the suitors' arrows have no effect on him.
Mentor as term
The first recorded modern usage of the term can be traced to a book entitled "Les Aventures de Telemaque", by the French writer François Fénelon In the book the lead character is that of Mentor. This book was published in 1699 and was very popular during the 18th century and the modern application of the term can be traced to this publication.
This is the source of the modern use of the word mentor: a trusted friend, counselor or teacher, usually a more experienced person. Some professions have "mentoring programs" in which newcomers are paired with more experienced people in order to obtain good examples and advice as they advance, and schools sometimes have mentoring programs for new students or students who are having difficulties.
Today mentors provide their expertise to less experienced individuals in order to help them advance their careers, enhance their education, and build their networks. Many of the world's most successful people have benefited from having a mentor including:
Fictionally, a mentor is a common character in the hero's journey.
Historically, Mentor of Rhodes was a Greek mercenary who at various times fought either for or against Artaxerxes III.
Mentoree (or mentee)
The student of a mentor is called
. More accurately, for the recondite, the protégé would be called the telemachus
). Sometimes, the protégé is also called a mentee
. The -or
ending of the original name Mentor does not have the meaning of "the one who does something", as in other English
words such as contractor
. The derivation
is therefore an example of backformation