Clarkscript Logo 

  English Grammar: Masculine and Feminine Nouns -- Gender


Video: Gender of Nouns

Help for students of English 

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 Gender.

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 Nouns:-

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 :

Masculine. Feminine.

Masculine.

Feminine. 

abbot
actor 
adulterer
master
author
mayor
duke
monitor
baron
marquis
murderer
enchanter 
prophet
god
emperor
founder
governor
seamster
host 
elector
sorcerer
tiger
traitor
viscount
abbess
actress
adulteress
mistress
authoress (or author)
mayoress
duchess1
monitress
baroness
marchioness2
murderess
enchantress
prophetess
goddess
empress
foundress 
governess
sempstress3
hostess
electress
sorceress
tigress 
traitress
viscountess  

lion
benefactor
negro
canon
patron
count
peer
dauphin
poet
deacon
proprietor
preceptor
protector
prior
giant
heir
shepherd
hunter 
priest
songster
instructor
inventor
Jew  

lioness
benefactress
negress
canoness
patroness
countess
peeress
dauphiness
poetess (or poet)
deaconess
proprietress (-trix)
preceptress
protectress
prioress
giantess
heiress
shepherdess
huntress
priestess
songstress3
instructress
inventress
Jewess 

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 Latin: as,-

Masculine               Feminine

administrator            administratrix
executor                   executrix
testator                     testatrix

(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-

Masculine            Feminine
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:-

Masculine                        Feminine
don                                   donna (Italian)
infant                                 infanta(Spanish)
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 from Latin.

 Next... Gender by sex ...Previous Gender

  Speech-recognition-spelling-alphabet

  Nouns-gender Nouns-number Nouns-gender-sex Index
Gender of Nouns worksheets Proofreading


top.gif

States Capitals Sheets. Useful worksheets on states capitals and more.
Sitemap english-grammar-exercise grammar-tutorial understanding-english-grammar english-grammar-tests englishgrammerblog 

Tom Sawyer printable English worksheets 

Bible printable worksheets

 

Contact Privacy policy

 
Copyright W.Clark 2009 Based on JMD Meiklejohn