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How do you know the gender of Spanish nouns?

By: Natalia Molina Ceballos Wed Feb 21 2024

To know the gender of Spanish nouns, take a look at the noun ending or the gender of the article before it. It is important to identify the gender of Spanish nouns because the adjectives and other words accompanying them agree accordingly. Take, for example, the feminine noun casa (house). If we want to add an adjective to describe it, we need to make it feminine as well, like this: casa bonita (beautiful house). This post will review how to recognize the gender of animate and inanimate nouns and review misleading nouns’ gender, nouns that change meaning based on gender, and nouns referring to animals. Keep reading to learn more!

Table of Contents

    How do you recognize gender in Spanish nouns?

    To recognize gender in Spanish nouns, examine the ending of the noun: most nouns ending in -o are masculine (hermano, "brother"; libro, "book"), and those ending in -a are feminine (hermana, "sister"; taza, "cup"). Although this is a good starting point, this is not always the case, you can also memorize the various ending patterns (listed below) for nouns referring to inanimate objects.

    Gender of nouns referring to animate objects (physical gender)

    To identify the gender of a noun in Spanish, take a look at its ending. The general rule says that nouns ending in -a are feminine and those ending in -o are masculine. Look at the examples below:






    Sometimes the masculine noun referring to an animate object ends in a consonant, for example pintor ("painter"). In that case, make the noun feminine simply by adding an -a:







    Let’s take a look at other cases of the gender of nouns that refer to animate objects.

    Nouns that remain the same and only change the article

    Some nouns in Spanish are the same regardless of gender and only change the article. This means they have a singular form for both feminine and masculine, while only the article changes. Look at the following examples:

    el artista
    la artista

    the artist

    el piloto
    la piloto

    the pilot

    el paciente
    la paciente

    the patient

    el estudiante
    la estudiante

    the student

    el intérprete
    la intérprete

    the interpreter

    Nouns ending in '–e'

    There are a few nouns that end in -e in their masculine form that refer to animate objects. For these cases, the feminine form is made by dropping the -e and adding an -a:

    el jefe
    la jefa

    the boss

    el sastre
    la sastra

    the tailor

    Nouns that change slightly for feminine and masculine forms

    For some nouns, masculine and feminine forms are somewhat different:

    el rey

    the king

    la reina

    the queen

    el actor

    the actor

    la actriz

    the actress

    el alcalde

    the mayor

    la alcaldesa

    the mayor

    Gender of nouns referring to inanimate objects

    For the gender of nouns referring to inanimate objects, such as things, places, ideas, etc, the rules are different. Here are some rules and endings that will help you identify their gender with ease.

    Masculine nouns

    Nouns ending in the consonants -n, -r, -s, -l, -x and -y are usually masculine* (scroll down to see exceptions in the “Misleading nouns” section).

    Example (Spanish)
    Example (translation)
    un / el corazón

    a / the heart

    un / el amor

    a / the love

    un / el bus

    a / the bus

    un / el árbol

    a / the tree

    un / el tórax

    a / the thorax

    un / el buey

    a / the ox

    There are also some categories of nouns that are always masculine. These are: the days of the week, colors, numbers, languages, the names of rivers, oceans, mountains, volcanoes, and compound nouns formed with a verb. You’ll find some examples in the following table:

    Example (Spanish)
    Example (translation)

    Days of the week

    el lunes



    el azul

    the blue


    el diez

    the ten


    el español


    Rivers, oceans, mountains, and volcanoes

    • el Amazonas
    • el Atlántico
    • el Aconcagua
    • el Cotopaxi
    • The Amazon

    • The Atlantic

    • The Aconcagua

    • The Cotopaxi

    Compound nouns made from verbs

    el sacacorchos

    the corkscrew

    Finally, there are some other noun endings that are typically an indication of masculine gender. These are: -aje, -ambre, -ate, -ete, -ote, and -miento. Take a look at the following examples:

    Example (Spanish)
    Example (translation)
    el traje

    the suit

    el hambre

    the hunger

    el escaparate

    the wardrobe

    el clarinete

    the clarinet

    el camarote

    the bunk bed

    el pimiento

    the pepper

    Feminine nouns

    Nouns ending in -dad, -tad, -tud, -ión, -ez, -eza, -umbre, -is, -ia, -ie, and -ncia are usually feminine* (scroll down to see exceptions in the “Misleading nouns” section).

    Example (Spanish)
    Example (translation)
    la solidaridad

    the solidarity

    la amistad

    the friendship

    la latitud

    the latitude

    la canción

    the song

    la timidez

    the shyness

    la belleza

    the beauty

    la cumbre

    the summit

    la crisis

    the crisis

    la gracia

    the grace

    la superficie

    the surface

    la emergencia

    the emergency

    Nouns ending in ‘-e’

    Nouns ending in -e can be masculine or feminine. There is no trick to remembering these, so to know their gender, always take a look at the article before it. In its singular form, a feminine noun will be accompanied by the articles la ("the") or una ("a, an") and the masculine noun will go with the articles el ("the") or un ("a, an").


    el restaurante

    the restaurant

    la clase

    the class

    el cine

    the cinema

    la noche

    the night

    If you want to practice, we have created an exercise for you and a list with the most common Spanish nouns ending in -e.

    What are misleading nouns?

    Misleading nouns are nouns that refer to inanimate objects that may have the ending of a specific gender but are actually the opposite gender. These nouns are exceptions to the rules above. Look at some examples in the following table:


    el clima


    la catedral


    el día


    la foto

    picture, photo

    el idioma


    la imagen


    Do you want to know more? We have created an exercise that you can use to learn more misleading Spanish nouns.

    Nouns that change meaning based on their gender

    Spanish has some nouns that change their meanings based on their gender (meaning when they are used with feminine or masculine articles).

    el Papa

    the Pope

    la papa

    the potato

    el capital

    the investment

    la capital

    the capital city

    Check out our list of Spanish nouns that change their meaning based on their gender.

    Nouns referring to animals

    Nouns referring to animals can be tricky in Spanish. They may only be in the masculine or the feminine gender or may even have different words depending on the gender. Check out this list for a quick reference about the different cases and words for animals based on their gender.


    It’s important to identify the gender of nouns in Spanish so that they can agree with the adjectives and other words used to accompany them. To do so, there are some rules we need to remember. Let’s see what we’ve learned:

    • Nouns that refer to animate objects will generally have two forms, masculine and feminine, which will be easily identifiable by their endings (-o or -a).

    • Nouns ending in consonants like -n, -r, -s, -l, -x, or -y are typically masculine.

    • Nouns ending in -d, -ión, -ez, or -is are typically feminine.

    • Nouns that end in -e and misleading nouns are hard to tell, so always look at the article in front of the word.

    If you want to practice these two last cases, we have created this exercise for you. Finally, if you want an easy way to remember some of these endings, this acronym might be helpful.

    Downloadable Resources

    Elevate your language-learning journey to new heights with the following downloadable resources.

    How do you know the gender of Spanish nouns~Meaning changing nouns tableHow do you know the gender of Spanish nouns~ Nouns Referring to AnimalsHow do you know the gender of Spanish nouns~ Misleading Nouns ending in -e activitiesHow do you know the gender of Spanish nouns~ Misleading Nouns activities

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