Gender in Latin Words
Latin nouns are masculine, feminine, or neuter. Like English, some of these parts of speech have a natural gender that is based on biological sex. However, the rest have a gender associated with them artificially even where no biological sex is indicated.
The gender of Latin words based on biological sex is easy to identify. Words that naturally refer to males are masculine, such as vir (man), puer (boy), or rex (king). Words that naturally refer to females are feminine, such as femina (woman), puella (girl), or regina (queen).
The gender of all other words is more difficult because there is no biological sex associated with them. They only have grammatical gender. Nouns that are neuter in English can be masculine or feminine in Latin.
- Some examples of masculine Latin nouns include liber (book), ager (field), and animus (soul).
- Some examples of feminine Latin nouns include fama (rumor), fortuna (fortune), and ira (anger).
- Finally, some examples of neuter Latin nouns include basium (kiss), bellum (war), and exitium (ruin). Notice that all these example words have a gender even though there is no biological sex associated with them. In English, all of these words are considered to have a neuter gender.
There are, however, some guidelines for knowing a Latin word’s gender even if the student must make an educated guess. Proper words for names of mountains, rivers, and months of the year are normally masculine while names of cities, countries, and trees are normally feminine. But the Latin student should never rely on these rules for determining gender. There are too many exceptions. Memorization of every word’s gender is the only method available to properly learn and use the language.