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En español, tenemos una regla en la cual, generalmente, se puede tener fé. Si una palabra termina con -o, es masculina. Sin embargo, palabras que terminan en -e o -a también pueden ser palabras masculinas, pero una que termina con -o es masculina sin duda.

Existe la excepción en la palabra «mano». ¿Por qué es esto? ¿Cómo se originó esta excepción?

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Hay varias más: la radio, la moto, la foto. –  dusan Nov 15 '11 at 21:36
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this suggests that it is because of the fact that the word "mano" originates from Latin "manus" which has a feminine form. –  kristof Nov 15 '11 at 21:39
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@dusan Las dos segundas son formas más cortas: la motocicleta, la fotografía. Me parece que la radio es la misma cosa, pero no estoy segura. –  Aarthi Nov 15 '11 at 21:40
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@TomAu: I think you are right. Even radio is a contraction (radiodifusión). –  dusan Nov 18 '11 at 0:38
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@AarthiDevanathan: Yes, I think la mano is the only natural feminine word ending in "o" in Spanish. The rest are alternative forms, short forms, and other variations. –  Brian Nov 18 '11 at 1:54

1 Answer 1

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Gender

While the rule is in general that all -o words are masculine, there are exceptions. This one is one of these exceptions to that rule.

Origin

One theory (proposed here) is that this word derived from the Latin word manus which was a fourth-declension feminine noun. For comparison, first declension nouns were all feminine and second declension were all masculine or neuter. This particular word, though, was a fourth-declension noun.

Fourth declension nouns were a bit different since they are predominantly masculine with some feminine exceptions. "Manus" was one of those exceptions.

Summary

More than likely, the word la mano derived from the Latin word manus, which was feminine.

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I like how you call it "a theory" when it seems pretty obvious to me that's exactly what happened. ;) (By the way, there were masculine first-declension nouns, like "athleta", and feminine second-declension nouns, like "humus" -- but the latter were quite rare.) –  Kef Schecter Nov 15 '11 at 22:50

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