Faux Genders

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Revision as of 20:26, 19 January 2008 by Hannahbw (talk | contribs) (The Chart: Added footnote regarding the origin of 'tomato')
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Faux Genders is a perhaps misleading term referring to cognates in the Romance languages which are not consistent in grammatical gender (noun class) from one language to the next.

Following is a collection of some examples of these.


This project was originally started as a random exercise, with the following explanation:

Spanish and French, both being Romance languages, have a gender attribute to their nouns. Also, being related, many words have the same origin. These are called cognates. In French, cognates that don't have the same meaning as their source are called faux amis. Having studied French before Spanish, and not ever having been good at remembering what gender a given noun was in French, I found it convenient to rely on Spanish when I needed a noun's gender, since remembering a noun's gender in Spanish is as simple as learning only a few rules and a handful of exceptions. However, it turns out that not all French-Spanish cognates have the same gender, though probably well over 90% do.[1]

Here's a small compilation of exceptions that Jonathan North Washington, Hannah Beth Washington, George Martin Fell Brown, and Michael-Forest Meservy have been able to collect.

This data is now being collected for Hannah's B.A. thesis.

The Chart

Faux Genders
English Latin Romanian Portuguese Galician Spanish Catalan Occitan French Jèrriais Cotentinais Romansh Italian Sardinian
First declension
edge, border ora, orae (1f) a orla la orla l'orlo (masc) oru
Second declension
nose nasus, nasi (2m) o nariz o nariz la nariz le nez l'nez il nas il naso nasu
journey, voyage viaticus, viatici (2m) a viagem a viaxe el viaje el viatge le voyage il viaggio
glass vitrum, vitri (2n) o vidro o vidro el vidrio le verre l'vèrre il vaider il vetro bidru
la vitre l'vitre vetru
Third declension
ear auris, auris (3f) ureche (fem) a orelha a orella la oreja l'oreille (fem) l'orecchio (masc)[2] orija
auricula, auriculae (1f) le orecchie
flower flos, floris (3m) floare (fem) a flor a flor la flor la fleur la flieur la flleur la flur il fiore flore
înflorire (fem) fiore
colour color, coloris (3m) culoare (fem) a cor a cor el color[3] el color[4] la couleur la couleu la couoleu la colur il colore colore
colorit (neut) la color
pain dolor, doloris (3m) durere (fem) a dor a dor el dolor el dolore[4] la douleur il dolore dolore
la dolore
bridge pons, pontis (3m) punte (fem) a ponte a ponte el puente el pǫnt le pont la punt il ponte ponte
ponton; pod (neut.) ponti
inch pollex, pollicis (3m) a polegada a polgada la pulgada le pouce il polesch il pollice poddighe (mannu)
blood sanguis, sanguinis (3m) sînge ("masc") o sangue o sangue la sangre sang (fem) le sang l'sang il sang il sangue sanguni
sang (masc) sambene
salt sal, salis (3m) sare (fem) o sal o sal la sal[5] la sal le sel il sal il sale sale
labor, task, ploughing labor, laboris (3m) o lavouro o labor la labor le labeur il lavoro
le labour
dust, powder pulvis, pulveris (3m) pulbere (fem) a poeira a poeira el polvo la pols la poussière la polvere piuere
la poudre
end finis, finis (3m, i-stem) o fim o fin el fin la fin la fin la fine fine
il fine finis
sweat sudor, sudoris (3m) sudoare fem) o suor o suor el sudor el suor[4] la sueur il sudore suore
la suor la suée
warmth, heat calor, caloris (3m) căldură fem) o calor o calor el calor[3] el calor[4] la chaleur il calore il calore
la calor
tree arbor, arboris (3f) a árvore a árbore el árbol[6] l'arbre (masc) l'arbre (masc); l'bouais l'âbre (masc) l'albero (masc) arvere
art ars, artis (3f) a arte a arte el arte l'art (masc) l'art (masc) l'art (masc) l'arte (fem) arte
las artes
custom consuetudo, consuetudinis (3f) o costume o costume la costumbre la coutume il costume costumene
origin origo, originis (3f) origine (fem) a origem a orixe el origen[7] l'origine (fem) l'origine (fem) origine
hail grando, grandinis (3f) o granizo el granizo la grêle la granella la grandine
milk lac, lactis (3n) lapte (neut) o leite o leite la leche llet lach le lait l'lait il latg il latte latte
sea mar, maris (3n) mare (fem) o mar o mar el mar la mer la mé la mé la mar il mare mare
honey mel, mellis (3n) miere (fem) o mel o mel la miel el mel le miel il miele miele
la mel
Fourth declension
Fifth declension
ice glacies, glaciei (5f) o gelo o xeo el hielo la glace il glatsch il ghiaccio ghiacciu
landscape a paisagem a paisaxe el paisaje le paysage il paesaggio paesaggiu
cloud nubes, nubis (?f) a nuvem a nube la nube le nuage l'nouage la nuaée il nivel la nuvola nue
valley valles, vallis (?f) o vale o val el valle[8] la vall la vallée la vallée la val la valle badde
flag a bandeira a bandeira la bandera le drapeau la couleu la couoleu la bandiera
spider a aranha a araña la araña l'araignée (fem) l'pêtre il ragno
make-up a maquiagem el maquillaje le maquillage
garage garaj (neut) a garagem o garaxe el garaje el garatge le garage la garascha
car automobil (neut) o auto el auto l'auto (masc) l'auto (fem) la vaituthe; moto (?) la qùérette; la maringote; l'éto (?) l'auto (masc) l'auto (fem)
tomato[9] tomată o tomate o tomate el tomate el tomàquet la tomate la tanmate la tomata
edge, border bordură (fem) o bordo la bordure
Created from adjectival forms
minute minut o minuto o minuto el minuto la minute la minnute la minute la minuta il minuto
Derived from verbs
conquest a conquista a conquista la conquista la conquète la contchête le conqùet la conquista
shelf a estante o estante el estante l'étagère (fem)


  1. In light of Richard V. Teschner's 1986 study ("The Genders of French and Spanish Noun Cognates: Some Statistics and a List" from The Canadian Modern Language Review, Jan. 1986: 256-66), this guesstimate can be revised. Teschner found 14,966 noun cognates between French and Spanish, of which 13,825 have the same grammatical gender; this indicates that 92.38% of French cognates with Spanish share the same gender.
  2. This is one of several irregular plural formations in Italian. More common irregular formations in Italian appear with a masculine singular noun ending in -o, which changes to a feminine noun in the plural with its ending in -a. Examples of these "plurali irregolari" are: il braccio-le braccia, il ciglio-le ciglia, il labbro-le labbra, l'uovo (m)-le uova, il dito-le dita, il riso-le risa ('laughter'), l'osso (m)-le ossa, il ginocchio-le ginocchia, etc.
  3. 3.0 3.1 According to Ralph Penny (A History of the Spanish Language, Cambridge: University Press (2002), 125), Spanish 'calor' and 'color' were usually feminine in Old Spanish but revert to masculine after the Golden Age. Penny also mentions that these two nouns remain feminine in regional speech.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Zenenko states that nouns ending in -orem (in the accusative) are generally masculine in Latin but often develop into feminine nouns in Ibero-Romance. However, in the case of Catalan, these nouns are almost exclusively masculine in the spoken language, with the feminine equivalent appearing more and more in formal writing (“Acerca de la manifestación del género de los sustantivos y adjetivos como categoría grammatical en las lenguas romances ibéricas”, Verba, 10.1 (1983): 231-247).
  5. 'Sal' is feminine in Spanish except in the Northwest of Spain (Penny 125).
  6. 'Árbol' was often still feminine in Old Spanish (Penny 125).
  7. 'Origen' was feminine in Latin and Spanish until the Golden Age (Penny 125).
  8. Old Spanish 'la val' was feminine (Penny 125).
  9. This word is adapted from Nahuatlan tomatl (compare with the Latinate word seen in the Italian pomodoro). For further information, see William A. Read's Louisiana-French (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1931, pg 149).

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