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Nouns Whose Meanings Change With Gender

Spanish About.com

Nearly all nouns in Spanish are always masculine or always feminine. But there are a few nouns that can be either.

In most cases, those are the nouns describing what people do, and the gender varies with the person the word stands for. Thus, for example, el dentista refers to a male dentist, while la dentista refers to a female dentist. Un artista is a male artist, while una artista is a female artist. Most, but not all, of the occupational words that follow this pattern end in -ista. One that doesn't is atleta: un atleta is a male athlete, while una atleta is a female athlete.

But there are a few nouns where the matter of gender is more complicated. Those are the nouns whose meanings vary depending on the gender of articles or adjectives used with them. In most cases, there's no immediately obvious reason why one meaning has developed with the masculine gender and another meaning for the feminine, so the only way to learn them is to memorize them or use them until you know them.

Following is a list of the most common such words. Only the basic or most usual meanings are included here; consult a dictionary for more thorough definitions.

Spanish nouns whose meanings change with gender

-busca: el busca = pager (electronic device); la busca = search

-capital: el capital = financial capital; la capital = capital city, capital letter

-cólera: el cólera = cholera; la cólera = anger

-coma: el coma = coma; la coma = comma

-cometa: el cometa = comet; la cometa = kite

-consonante: el consonante = rhyme; la consonante = consonant

-corte: el corte = cut, blade; la corte = court (law)

-cura: el cura = Catholic priest; la cura = cure

-delta: el delta = delta (of a river); la delta = delta (Greek letter)

-doblez: el doblez = fold, crease; la doblez = double dealing

-editorial: el editorial = editorial (opinion article); la editorial = publishing business

-escucha: el escucha = male sentry or guard; la escucha = female sentry or guard, the act of listening

-final: el final = end; la final = championship game in a tournament

-frente: el frente = front; la frente = forehead

-guardia: el guardia = policeman; la guardia = protection, custody, guard, police force, policewoman

There are many more

  • Do you have the link to the article? - jessicamccal May 30, 2013
  • I added the other article. I hope you don't mind. :) - jessicamccal May 30, 2013
  • Not at all my friend anything which will help us all learn is OK by me. - ray76 May 30, 2013
  • Good find Ray. Thank you - EL_MAG0 May 30, 2013
  • thanks mate , how you doin , still wracking them up ? - ray76 May 30, 2013

6 Answers



Wait, the meaning does not change the gender, however the meaning determines what gender is going to be used.


EDIT: The article is a bit flawed, as I see it, because it looks at it as a simple problem, which is not, Since I don't know grammar I cannot give you grammar explanations but here is an example of my explanation, which cannot be used to explain all of them...

Buscar: to search

El busca: the choice (pager) is a regional name for a pager, I didn't even know that it was called like that. I don't know what country/countries use this. I thought it meant "él busca = he searches"

La busca = In plain Spanish it means "he/she searches for her/it"

Now the article says it means search. I don't know in what country that term would be used, but I can tell you that "la búsqueda" = "the search"

So I wouldn't really recommend to base any kind of knowledge on this article.

Sorry to be a party pooper... :(

  • Correct mate, doubly gendered not , gender bending, But as you can see the meanings change dramatically. - ray76 May 30, 2013
  • Incidentally , if you or anyone can put that list in a more understandable list order I would appreciate it , I just am not able to work it out, too thick I guess. - ray76 May 30, 2013


This is a very helpful post, even more so because I have certainly never thought about it. Thanks for coming to the rescue Ray! I would love to take a look at the article. I will try to find it.

  • May 30, 2013
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  • I can send it to you want.---http://spanish.about.com/od/nouns/a/gender_inherent.htm?nl=1 - ray76 May 30, 2013
  • Thanks a million Ray! I'll take a look at it. - jessicamccal May 30, 2013
  • http://spanish.about.com/od/nouns/a/double_gendered.htm This is the link that you got that list from. It is a seperate article but I found both very helpful. - jessicamccal May 30, 2013
  • No problems mate , I am in a spin at the moment and not quite up to scratch. Whateveeeeeeerrrr. - ray76 May 30, 2013
  • No worries - jessicamccal May 30, 2013


Thanks Ray, I had never thought about this, in this manner.

  • May 30, 2013
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  • It was a revelation to me also. - ray76 May 30, 2013


Good articles Ray. Perfect for reviewing.

Thanks mate.

  • May 30, 2013
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  • It is a fabulous site , gives great insight into areas one would never think existed , there is a forum also to discuss whatever. - ray76 May 30, 2013
  • Its true - 0080b918 May 30, 2013


Ay!! Even more ways to 'impress' my Spanish friends with mixed-up words! enter image description here

Seriously, great article, Ray. Gracias! enter image description here This would make an excellent set of flashcards. Any takers?

  • May 30, 2013
  • | Edited by Findy May 30, 2013
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  • I will use them, but I am afraid I can't volunteer myself to make them. Last exam of the year is today...*gulps* right now! lol. - jessicamccal May 30, 2013


Great Article!

I just went on the website it was very nice!

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  • Thanks mate , now make sure that you try some of them out .Post some of maybe ? - ray76 May 30, 2013