Masculine and Feminine Nouns

Overview

One of the hardest things for people to get used to when learning Spanish is the idea that nouns (people, places, animals, things, ideas, and feelings) have a gender (male, female). There is always a question of "How can a table be feminine?" and "How can a book be masculine?" This doesn’t mean that the table or the book is physically feminine or masculine, but in a grammatical sense, the ending is. Why is gender so important in Spanish? Well, if a noun is masculine, then its descriptive adjectives and articles will also need to be masculine. In order to describe something accurately, an adjective must match a noun in both gender and number. For example:

La manzana es roja.
The apple is red.
 
El plátano es amarillo.
The banana is yellow.
 

Knowing the gender of a noun allows you to describe it using adjectives correctly and also use the correct articles when you have to. By far, the best way to determine the gender of a noun is to look it up in a dictionary. If you don't have a dictionary available, there are a few general observations you can use below, but these are not rules! They are just clues for when you don't have a dictionary. So let’s talk about some general ways to recognize if a noun is masculine or feminine.

Masculine Nouns

Most masculine nouns end in -o. Ending in an -o can indicate that a person or animal is male, or just an object, idea, etc. that is grammatically masculine.

Common Masculine Noun that End in -O

el cartero
mailman/postman
 
el niño
child/son
 
el tío
uncle
 
el teatro
theater
 
el dormitorio
bedroom
 

For All Those Masculine Nouns that Don't End in -O...

If it ends in -e, an accented vowel (-á, -é, -í, -ó, -ú), -ma, or a consonant other than -d, -z, or -ión, it's also masculine.

EndingExamples
-eel perfume , el estante , el maquillaje 
accented vowelel colibrí , el ají , el ñandú 
consonant (except -d, -z, and -ión)el árbol , el rumor , el cojín 
-mael programa , el drama , el idioma 

And the exceptions...

These nouns may look like they have a masculine ending, but they are actually feminine. No rules here, just memorization.

-o-econsonants that aren't -d nor -z
la foto
 
la llave
 
la miel
 
la mano
 
la calle
 
la sal
 
la moto
 
la fiebre
 
la hiel
 
la libido
 
la carne
 
la piel
 
la radio
 
la frase
 
la coliflor
 
la polio
 
la gente
 
la sor
 
la virago
 
la nieve
 
la labor
 
la noche
 
la flor
 
la nube
 
la sangre
 
la suerte
 
la tarde
 
la muerte
 
la madre
 
la base
 
la clase
 
la clave
 
la corriente
 
la fuente
 
la llave
 
la sede
 
la serpiente
 
la torre
 

Feminine Nouns

Most feminine nouns end in -a. Ending in an -a indicates that a person or animal is female or that an object, idea, etc. is grammatically feminine.

Common Feminine Nouns that End in -A

la enfermera
nurse
 
la profesora
teacher
 
la hija
daughter
 
la rosa
rose
 
la guitarra
guitar
 
la piscina
pool
 

For All Those Feminine Nouns That Don't End in -A...

If it ends in -d, -z, or ión, it's also feminine.

EndingExamples
-dla felicidad , la virtud , la salud 
-zla paz , la nariz , la luz 
-iónla canción , la religión , la irritación 

And the exceptions...

These nouns look like they have feminine endings, but are grammatically masculine. Memorize these!

-a-d-z-ión
el drama
 
el huésped
 
el aprendiz
 
el ansión
 
el enigma
 
el ataúd
 
el cáliz
 
el roción
 
el esquema
 
el abad
 
el arroz
 
el notición
 
el estigma
 
el alud
 
el pez
 
el sentención
 
el estratega
 
el áspid
 
el lápiz
 
el idioma
 
el laúd
 
el ajedrez
 
el mapa
 
el récord
 
el antifaz
 
el morfema
 
el milord
 
el maíz
 
el planeta
 
el césped
 
el albornoz
 
el problema
 
el avestruz
 
el sistema
 
el altavoz
 
el tema
 
el altramuz
 
el día
 
el arroz
 
el aroma
 
el barniz
 
el axioma
 
el cariz
 
el buda
 
el disfraz
 
el carisma
 
el haz
 
el clima
 
el matiz
 
el diagrama
 
el dilema
 
el fantasma
 
el panda
 
el prisma
 

Borrowing From Greek!

A lot of nouns that end in -ma, -pa, and -ta are masculine because they are Greek in origin.

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