Nouns whose meanings change with gender ; Doubly Gendered.
An article from "About .Com"
Nouns Whose Meanings Change With Gender
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.
-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
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... :(
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.
Ay!! Even more ways to 'impress' my Spanish friends with mixed-up words!
Seriously, great article, Ray. Gracias! This would make an excellent set of flashcards. Any takers?