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When learning Spanish, there are basic rules taught about word gender: words ending in o are usually masculine, words ending in a are usually feminine.

What about words ending in e? Are there any guidelines or rules of thumb for determining the gender of these words? Are the majority of words ending in e masculine or feminine?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Son masculinos terminados en -e:

  • Nouns ending in -aje (sustantivos terminados en –aje): el coraje
  • Colors (colores): el verde
  • Numbers (números): el catorce
  • Rivers (ríos): el Contramaestre
  • Seas and lakes (mares y lagos): el Caribe
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3  
For the last 4 examples, I would say that the rule is simpler, all those nouns are masculine ( color, número, río, mar, lago ) and thus when naming a specific one of them, they will be also masculine. I'm not sure, but I think it's always like this, except for exceptions :D –  Petruza Feb 9 '12 at 0:44
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Indeed. el verde can be thought of as a shortening of el color de verde. Same for el número de catorce, etc. –  Flimzy May 19 '13 at 5:59
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@Flimzy: el color verde and el número catorce –  Lucas Sep 22 at 16:27

When I was studying Spanish in high school, our teacher taught us a great rule of thumb for determining word gender. While it doesn't apply to every single word in the dictionary, it applies to a majority of them.

LONERS vs DIÓNZA male vs female

If the word ends with a letter in those two words it takes the appropriate gender.

L-O-N-E-R-S

  • el sol
  • el oso
  • el falcón
  • el chocolate
  • el comedor
  • el paraguas

D-IÓN-Z-A

  • la verdad
  • la traducción
  • la estupidez
  • la cara
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Whether a Spanish word is feminine or masculine often is a function of etymology. If a word came from Latin, and it was masculine in Latin, it became masculine in Spanish. If a source word was feminine in Latin, it became feminine in Spanish.

However, there is at least one exception, as I discuss below, for which I cannot find a ready explanation.

La clase, la torre and la gente come from the feminine Latin words, classis, turris and gens. DRAE access 19 Sept 2014; Latdict access 19 Sept 2014. Hombre and pie come from the masculine Latin words homo and pie. DRAE; Latdict.

Equipaje comes from the Spanish verb equipar, which in turn is from the French verb équipar. DRAE. In French, the noun équipage is masculine. Collins English-French Dictionary access 19 Sept. 2014. Interestingly, equipage also is an archaic English word that entered the language in 1570. Online Etymology Dictionary access 19 Sept. 2014. A likely reason for equipaje to be masculine is that the -aje words entered Spanish from French in the 16th Century or earlier, and the source words were masculine in French at that time.

Similarly, coraje comes from the Old French word corages. DRAE. It is difficult to find quickly a source that provides the gender of corages, but the modern French courage, as well as the modern words coratge (Catalan) and coraggio (Italian), are masculine. Collins Dictionaries access 19 Sept. 2014. It thus appears likely that these Romance words developed from Vulgar Latin languages in which classical Latin neuter nouns became masculine. "Vulgar Latin," Reference.com access 19 Sept. 2014. In classical Latin, the related words cor and cordis were neuter gender. Latdict.

La sangre does not fit the pattern. It comes from the masculine Latin word sanguis. DRAE. In modern Catalan, French and Italian the words for blood are masculine. There is an online source that provides theories about why sangre became feminine in Spanish, but I have found that the source is unreliable. This is a good issue to research if you are interested in Etymology.

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I read that in general:

  • the words ending in aje are masculine
  • the words ending in ie are feminine

There are words with both genders, and the meanings are different depending on the gender, e.g. arte, corte, frente.
There are words with both genders, and the meanings are the same for each gender, e.g. casete, interrogante.

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Can you provide some source for the first affirmation? –  Gonzalo Medina Nov 27 '11 at 23:44
    
Yes @Gonzalo Medina, Modern Spanish Grammar –  Theta30 Nov 28 '11 at 0:01
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Then perhaps you could mention that source (perhaps including the concrete page(s)) in your answer. –  Gonzalo Medina Nov 28 '11 at 0:19
    
@Gonzalo Medina Thank you for your comments. –  Theta30 Nov 28 '11 at 1:50

I think most words ending in -e are femenine. For example:

  • La clase
  • La torre
  • La gente
  • La sangre

However, there are a lot more exceptions for words ending in -e than for words ending in -o. For example:

  • El hombre
  • El equipaje
  • El pie
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