There are two genders properly so called: Masculine and
Feminine. The distinction of male and female in nature is called
sex. The distinction between Masculine and Feminine in words is
Note. The word Gender comes from the Latin word genus,
generis, a sort or kind.
The English language, unlike most others, applies the
distinction of Masculine and Feminine only to the names of
persons and animals: man, woman; boy, girl; lion, lioness. Nouns
which denote things without animal life are said to be Neuter or
of Neuter Gender, from the Latin word neuter, neither (i.e,
neither masculine nor feminine) : iron, stone, river. The only
exception to this rule is when inanimate things are represented
Note. Collective Nouns are Neuter though denoting collections
of male or female objects: army, committee, sisterhood.
When the same name is used for male and female, it is said to
be Common or of Common Gender : bird, fish, parent, sovereign,
friend. There are three ways of indicating difference of Gender
1. By inflexion.*
2. By using a word indicative of sex.
3. By distinct words.
* INFLEXION [Latin, inflecto, flexi, flexum, to bend or
change] means some addition to, or change in, a word to denote
a modification of meaning. The inflexional changes of words
are explained in connexion with their classification
THE GENDER DISTINGUISHED BY INFLEXION.
1. The feminine is usually distinguished from the
masculine by the ending -ess :
NOTES. -The ending -ess comes through the French from the Latin
ending -ix. (See below, 2.)
1 Duchess is from Fr. duchesse.
2 Marchioness from late Latin marchio, marchionissa.
3 Sempstress (seamstress) and songstress, see below, No. 2 '3).
Note. Many feminine forms besides the above are occasionally
to be met with, especially in our older authors: victoress, or
victress (Spenser, Shakspeare, Jonson) offendress (Shakspeare)
tyranness (Akenside). But the present tendency of the
language is to reduce the number of such words by using the
masculine form as common, as in the case of author, poet,
elector (except when used as a sovereign title). In the case
of official titles the feminine form is carefully preserved.
Governor = ruler is common : governess == instructress.
2. A few isolated instances of other feminine endings occur:-
(1.) -trix, in a few Nouns taken directly from the
(2.) -en, an old feminine suffix of which only one pure
English example remains : vix-en (0. E. fixen ; Germ. fuchsin),
she-fox; hence, a spiteful woman.
To this head belong also-
hero heroine (Greek)
landgrave landgravine (German)
margrave margravine (German)
comedian comedienne (French)
Note. Land-gravine, Mar-gravine: German -grafin. The suffixes
-en, -in, -ine, are Identical in origin.
(3.) -ster, an old English ending, of which only one
example is now in use as feminine : spin-ster-(lit.she that
spins; viz. with the spinning-wheel); an unmarried woman. Also
song-ster was originally feminine, so that song-str-ess has two
feminine endings. In like manner semp-str-ess from the verb
seam, has two feminine endings.
Note. But (the termination -ster came to be used as a
masculine. This appears in such old words as brewster,
huckster, maltster, tapster.
(4.) -a in a few Romance words:-
don donna (Italian)
signor signora (Italian)
So- sultan sultana
Note. The Romance languages are those spoken in the countries
which were once provinces of the Roman Empire, and are derived
Gender by sex ...Previous
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