All Italian nouns have either a masculine or a feminine gender. Gender is a purely grammatical term. Nouns referring to human beings or animals sometimes have the same grammatical gender as their natural gender, but not always:

una giraffa (giraffe) is always feminine
un ippopotamo (hippopotamus) is always masculine

In order to provide the missing half, we have to say:

una giraffa maschio (a male giraffe)
un ippopotamo femmina (a female hippopotamus)

Some animals – as in English – have two distinct names for the male and the female of the species:

un leone (lion), una leonessa (lioness)
un gallo (cock), una gallina (hen)

Some, but not all, professional and other titles may have a distinct form for the feminine. Nouns whose masculine form ends in -e have a feminine form ending either in -a or in -essa:

cameriere cameriera (waiter/waitress)
infermiere infermiera (nurse)
padrone padrona (master/mistress)
studente studentessa (student)
principe principessa (prince/princess)
conte contessa (count/countess)
barone baronessa (baron/baroness)

Most nouns with masculine form ending in -tore have a feminine form ending in -trice:

attore attrice (actor/actress)
autore autrice (author)
direttore direttrice (director, manager)
imperatore imperatrice (emperor/empress)
pittore pittrice (painter)
scrittore scrittrice (writer)
senatore senatrice (senator)

Note the following masculine nouns with feminine equivalent in -essa:

dottore dottoressa (doctor)
professore professoressa (teacher)

The gender and number determine the ending of the noun. These patterns of endings are called inflexions. Italian nouns can be divided into several different groups, according to their patterns of inflexion. The three most common patterns are:









Masculine or femenine



→ Note: Nouns in the third group (-e) have the same ending whatever the gender.



MASCULINE Tavolo Table Tavoli Tables
Albero Tree Alberi Trees
Sbaglio Mistake Sbagli Mistakes
Ragazzo Boy Ragazzi Boys
FEMENINE Donna Woman Donne Women
Parola Word Parole Words
Scuola School Scuole Schools
Ragazza Girl Ragazze Girls
MASCULINE Padre Father Padri Fathers
Studente Student Studenti Students
Bicchiere Glass Bicchieri Glasses
FEMENINE Madre Mother Madri mothers
Occasione Occasion Occasioni Occasions
Chiave Key Chiavi Keys

→ Note: In the plural, nouns ending in -co, -go; -ca, -ga; -cia, -gia present variations in their endings.

Maria Scalici


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2 Responses to Maschile/Femminile

  1. Sally says:

    Very interesting!


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