Gender of Spanish Nouns  

Nouns & Gender

Noun Gender

All Spanish nouns [inanimate or animate] have gender; they are either masculine or feminine. Gender is generally signalled by the noun ending and/or the article/adjective that accompanies the noun.

A. NOUN ENDINGS: Some noun endings that are fairly reliable indications of gender:

1. Generally masculine: Words ending in -o, -r, -l, -ama, -ema:

el carro = 'car', el dólar = 'dollar', el canal = 'canal/channel', el programa = 'program', el problema = 'problem'. But there are always exceptions like: la mano = 'hand', la modelo = '(fashion) model', la sal = 'salt', etc.

2. Generally feminine: Words ending in -a, -d, -ión, -is, -umbre, -z:

la banana = 'banana', la salud = 'health', la nación = 'nation', la tensión = 'tension', la crisis = 'crisis' -umbre = 'light', -la luz = 'light'. But: el día = 'day', el sistema = 'system' (see above), el ataúd = 'coffin', el camión = 'truck', el pez = 'fish'.

3. False Masculine: A number of short words beginning with a stressed a- carry the masculine singular definite article, but are actually feminine in gender [el agua/las aguas = 'water(s)', el alma/una alma/las almas = 'soul(s)', el águila/una águila/las águilas = 'eagle(s)'].


When the noun refers to a male and female animals or people, there are several possibilities.

1. The male/female distinction can be represented by different words: hombre/mujer = 'man/woman', marido/mujer = 'husband/wife', yerno/nuera = 'son/daughter-in-law'.

2. The same base noun can change its ending to signal gender: niño/niña = 'boy/girl', doctor/doctora = 'male/female doctor', español/española = 'Spaniard', gato/gata = 'male/female cat', gallo/gallina = 'rooster/hen', el tigre/la tigresa = 'tiger/tigress'.

3. The article/adjective marks gender, but there is no change in the noun form: el/la modelo = 'male/female model', el/la testigo = 'witness', el/la miembro = 'member', el/la artista = 'artist' , el/la idiota = 'idiot'.

Some nouns of this class are udergoing change as women become more common in traditionally male roles. For examples, el/la médico = 'male/female doctor', el/la abogado = 'lawyer', el/la presidente = 'president' now permit el médico/la médica, el abogado/la abogada, el presidente/la presidenta, respectively.

4. In the last case, the noun has fixed gender regardless of sex of referent [Jorge es la persona más interesante = 'George is the most interesting person'.].

Popular Phrase: asentir | Alphabet in Spanish | Conjugated Verb: recatar - conceal [ click for full conjugation ]