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 called
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 as persons.
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 in
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
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
(1.) -trix, in a few Nouns taken
directly from the Latin: as,-
(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-
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,
(4.) -a in a few Romance words:-
Note. The Romance languages are those spoken in the
countries which were once provinces of the Roman Empire, and are
derived from Latin.
by sex ...Previous Gender
Nouns-gender Nouns-number Nouns-gender-sex
Gender of Nouns