Back to

Mentoring Glossary

Mentoring is not simply a nice, good-feeling kind of gesture, but really a social obligation and a moral obligation. It is to pass on to young people necessary skills and understandings, and to learn from them in a dialectical relationship because education is a social process.

~ David Brotherton

Apprentice: a person who acquires a skill or a practice under the guidance of an expert. Although the status of an apprentice may be considered synonymous with the status of a mentee, Kubicek (2011) suggests that a mentee has more control over the goals s/he is working toward in a mentoring relationship than an apprentice has in an apprenticeship.

Coach: one who trains another, tutors, or provides instruction or advice (Coach, n.d.) The word, coach, comes from Kocs, the village where coaches, as a form of transportation, were first made in Hungary. According to Harper (2001-2014), coach was first used to refer to an instructor or trainer in connection with "Oxford University slang [circa 1831] for a tutor who 'carrie[d]' a student through an exam."

Although several commonalities between coaching and mentoring exist and the lines between these pedagogical relationships may be blurred by some authors, Management Mentors (2014) identify several distinctions between them. Of the differences this source identifies, those relevant to undergraduate research mentoring relationships include:

  • Focus: Although skill development may be part of both processes, mentoring focuses more on the development of relationships and coaching focuses more on the performance of specific tasks and skills.
  • Time: With its focus on the development of particular skills, a coaching relationship is usually of a shorter duration than a mentoring relationship.
  • Ends: Mentoring is more holistic than coaching. Mentoring seeks the development of "the individual not only for the current job, but also for the future" whereas coaching seeks to improve a mentee's performance within a particular context, in connection with the achievement of a specific skill set.
  • Planning: A knowledgeable, experienced coach can often transfer skills to his/her protégé without much planning. Because it is broader in scope and more interactive in nature, mentoring involves more planning than coaching: A mentor ideally develops and revises plans with his/her mentee regarding research and other professional goals throughout the lengthier mentoring process.

E-Mentoring (or Virtual Mentoring): mentoring that occurs in cyberspace via the Internet (blogs, chats, document sharing, e-mail, instant-messaging, online discussion groups, video conferencing, and wikis). Mentors and mentees may interact in real or asynchronous time. The pool of mentors available to a mentee may be larger than those available via traditional mentoring (An & Lipscomb, 2014).

Flash or Situational Mentoring: informal mentoring that occurs for a short time period (from a few minutes to a few hours) on one occasion. Although it does not involve much commitment by either the mentor or mentee, such an encounter could lead to future mentoring or collaborative experiences (Mangan, 2013).

Formal Mentoring: often established "with organizational assistance or intervention—usually in the form of voluntary assignment or matching of mentors and protégés" (Ragins & Cotton, 1999, p. 529). Ragins and Cotton (1999) believe these relationships may be shorter in length than informal mentoring relationships.

Group Mentoring: mentoring of more than one mentee or protégé at one time. Such mentoring may involve more than one mentor.

Informal Mentoring: a spontaneous relationship between a more experienced mentor and a mentee. ­A mentor's desire for "generativity," a mentee's interest in working with someone s/he views as a role model, and a mutual perception of "competence and interpersonal comfort" may contribute to the initiation of an informal mentoring relationship (Ragins & Cotton, 1999, p. 530).

Mentee: a person engaged in a mentoring relationship with a mentor or advisor. The word, mentee, is considered a "back-formation" from the word, mentor (Wiktionary, 2012). A mentee may be referred to as a protégé in the literature.

Mentor: often acknowledged as a "wise advisor" (Harper, 2001-2014) "who provides guidance and counsel to someone with less experience in a field" (Lipscomb & An, 2013, S29). S/he is "generally considered a more experienced person who alternately functions as a coach, counselor, and a teacher" (Stratton, Wootten & Mitstifer, 2000). "Traditionally implicit in mentoring are the support and nurturing offered by a mentor who has the knowledge, skills and attributes of the wise and trusted counsellor, someone who has travelled the mentee's path and understands the challenges" (Hughes, 2010, p. 95, emphasis in the original).

The word, mentor, "appears to be an agent noun of mentos," a word that suggests "intent, purpose, spirit, passion" (Harper, 2001-2014). It is associated with the roots, "men-," meaning "to think" (Harper, 2001-2014) and "-tor" signifying "doer" (Wiktionary, 2012). It is also connected with the Latin word, "monitor," meaning "one who admonishes" (Harper, 2001-2014).

According to Stratton, Wooten & Mitstifer (2000), the mentoring relationship seeks to:

  • "Enhance skill and intellectual development,
  • "Welcome and facilitate entry and advancement in the work situation,
  • "Expand horizons and perspectives,
  • "Acquaint the mentee with values, customs, resources, and professional connections,
  • "Model the professional role,
  • "Advise, give moral support and build confidence,
  • "Furnish a relatively objective assessment of strengths and weaknesses,
  • "Define the newly emerging self and to encourage the dream."

Mentoree: Alternative designation for a mentee or protégé.

Peer Mentoring: "is the interaction of individuals who are at about the same place/level in their careers" (Mangan, 2013, p. S39).

Protégé: a person engaged in a mentoring relationship with a mentor. Also known as a mentee in the literature.

Reverse Mentoring: occurs when a person with lesser professional experience mentors someone with more experience (Mangan, 2013).

Speed Mentoring: a mentor and a mentee meet for short sessions over a period of time. This mentoring approach may be compared to speed dating (Mangan, 2013).

Supervisory Mentoring: a form of mentoring where the mentor is the mentee's supervisor and selects goals and activities for the mentee to provide the mentee with professional experiences. (Mangan, 2013).

Team Mentoring: characterized by a team of mentors working with one mentee to help his/her professional growth and development (Mangan, 2013).


An, S., & Lipscomb, R. (2013). Instant mentoring: Sharing wisdom and getting advice online with e-mentoring. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 113(5 Suppl), S32. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2013.02.012

Coach. (n.d.). In unabridged. Retrieved from

Harper, D. (2001-2014). Online Etymological Dictionary. Retrieved from

Hughes, S. (2010). Mentoring and coaching. In T. Wright (Ed.) How to be a brilliant mentor (pp. 95-111). New York, NY: Routledge. Retrieved from

Kubicek, J. (2011, May 13). Take leadership to the next level. Retrieved from

Lipscomb, R. & An, S. (2013, May). Mentoring 101: Building a mentoring relationship. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 113, (5), Supplement, S29-S31. ISSN 2212-2672,

Management Mentors. (2014). The differences between coaching & mentoring. Resources: The 411 on All Things Mentoring Related. Retrieved from

Mangan, L. (2013). The many modes of mentoring: New spins on the classic relationship. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 113 (5 Suppl), S38. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2013.02.017

Ragins, B. & Cotton, L. (1999). Mentor functions and outcomes: A comparison of men and women in formal and informal mentoring relationships. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84 (4) 529-550. Retrieved from

Stratton, S., Wootton, L. & Mitstifer, D. (2000). Self-managed mentoring: A web-based course sponsored by Kappa Omicron Nu (KON) Honor Society.

Wiktionary. (2012, July 24). Mentee. Retrieved from