Masculine and feminine nouns
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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 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.

Non -O Masculine Nouns

-e el perfume, el estante, el maquillaje
accented vowel el colibrí, el ají, el ñandú

consonant (except -d, -z, and -ión)

el árbol, el rumor, el cojín
-ma el 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.
They Look Masculine, But are Feminine!

-o -e accented vowel consonants that aren't -d nor -z
la foto la llave la fe 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 feminine 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.

-d -z -ión
la felicidad la nariz la religión
la virtud la paz la canción
la salud la luz 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 corazón
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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