Masculine and feminine / المُذَكّر والمُؤَنّث

Masculine and feminine in Arabic (المُذَكّر والمُؤَنّث)

Arabic has two genders, masculine and feminine. There’s a clear difference between masculine and feminine in Arabic. The terminology used for gender is الجِنْس, or al-jins which translates to “sex, race, kind”. Generally speaking, a noun is either masculine, feminine or of uncertain gender (sometimes masculine, sometimes feminine).

Masculine nouns don’t have a special form. On the other hand feminine nouns, have three specific forms ending with:

  • The tā marbūṭa (ة): which is the biggest category.
  • The alif ى (or ا): for elatives (اِسْم التَفْضِيل) and masculine adjectives in the pattern فَعْلانُ (diptote).
  • The alif hamza (اء): for colors and deformities.

The tā marbūṭa (ة)

The letter hā  ه …ـه/ when written with two dots above (ة …ـة…) is pronounced as /t/, the same way that ت/ t/ is spoken. This form of writing, which occurs at the end of a word to signify femininity for nouns or adjectives, goes by the name “tā marbūṭa”. It’s an incredibly important component in proper pronunciation and understanding of the language.

The most common way to derive feminine nouns and adjectives is by adding the ending ـةٌ\..َ.ةٌ…َ /atun/ to the masculine form.

Masculine (المُذَكَّر)Feminine (المُؤَنَّث)
هُوَ مُعَلِّمٌ  
He is a teacher
هِيَ مُعَلِّمَةٌ 
She is a teacher  
هُوَ أَمِيرٌ 
He is a prince
هِيَ أَمِيرةٌ
She is a princess

Note: A few nouns with the feminine ending tā marbūṭa are masculine, because they are used only in reference to males, e.g

راوِِيَة 
storyteller
عَلاّمة 
great scholar
أُسامة 
Usama 
خَلِيفة 
caliph 

Note 2: Nouns ending in tā marbūṭa (ةٌ …َـةٌ…َ) /atun/ do not take the extra final alif  ا …in the indefinite accusative form. So the correct form is طالِبةً (not طالِبتًا).

Note 3: At the end of a sentence the final vowel of a word is normally not pronounced. Even tā marbūṭa is usually left unpronounced at the end of a sentence, as in طالِبةٌ ṭāliba for ṭālibatun.

The alif maqṣūra (ى)

The alif ى is used for elatives (اِسْم التَفْضِيل) and masculine adjectives in the pattern فَعْلانُ (diptote).

Elatives
(أَسْماء التَفْضِيل)
Adjectives in فَعْلان
(الصِفة المُشَبَهة)
أَكْبَر 
bigger/biggest
آخَر 
other
عَطْشان 
thirsty
غَضْبان 
angry
Masculine
(المُذَكَّر)
كُبْرى 
bigger/biggest
أُخْرى 
other
عَطْشى 
thirsty
غَضْبى 
angry
Feminine
(المُؤَنَّث)

The alif hamza (اء)

[restrict]

The alif hamza اء is used for colors and deformities.

Colors (الأَلْوان)Deformities (العُيُوب)
أَحْمَر 
red
أَشْقَر 
blond
أَعْرَج 
lame
أَعْمى 
blind
Masculine
(المُذَكَّر)
حَمْراء 
red
شَقْراء 
blond
عَرْجاء 
lame
عَمْياء 
blind
Feminine
(المُؤَنَّث)

Feminine words by nature

  • When it comes to most of the body’s paired parts or organs, they tend to be identified as feminine – for example:
أُذُن
ear
عَيْن 
eye 
قَدَم
foot
  • Some words are feminine by nature because they can only relate to women:
حامِل 
pregnant
عَرُوس 
bride 
أُمّ
mother
  • Geographical proper names, including the titles of countries, cities, towns and villages are typically considered feminine:
بارِيس 
Paris
دِمَشْق 
Damascus 
تُونِس 
Tunis 
  • A few nouns are feminine by usage:
شَمْس 
sun
أَرْض 
earth 
حَرْب
war 
  • Any being or object not endowed with reason is considered feminine singular in Arabic whether the noun is plural or not.

Note: Some words can be considered both feminine and masculine like:

  • The names of the letters of the alphabet (even though they are rather feminine).
  • Other regular nouns:
سُوق 
market
حال 
condition
سِكِّين 
knife
  • Hyperbolic participles on patterns فَعِيل and فَعول (which we’ll see in the Intermediate part).
  • Collective nouns (which we’ll see in the Advanced part).

Note 2: If two nouns of different gender are qualified by the same element, that element will be in the masculine dual.

المَرْأةُ والرَجُلُ فِلِسْطِينِيانِ
The man and the woman are Palestinian

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Masculine and feminine

Learn about masculine and feminine in Arabic with our comprehensive guide. Discover the rules and exceptions, and improve your understanding of Arabic grammar.

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