Why fruits seemingly have two genders? (or maybe being bi-gender would be a better way to put it).

I came across this phrase:

"...frutas, verduras, cereales y frutos secos"

So "la fruta" is pluralized "frutas" - that makes sense; but why is the plural "dried fruits" masculinized as "frutos secos"? Shouldn't it be "frutas secas"?

  • 3
    Here frutos secos probably means nuts, not dried fruits. dried fruits is usually fruta seca or fruta desecada.
    – rsanchez
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 19:33
  • There are other cases of words that have evolved towards different meanings while changing gender. Ex: ruedo-rueda, puerto-puerta, el/la cometa, el/la frente...
    – Rodrigo
    Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 23:21

4 Answers 4


We use "fruta" to refer to some of the juicy fruits of some trees, but "fruto" to refer to the product of something.

La pera es el fruto del peral.

You can use "fruto" in another contexts like

Este es el fruto de mi esfuerzo

"Frutos secos" is used to define the product of some trees/plants that in their natural state don't have (much) water, like peanuts and the like. So "frutas" would be a subset of the "frutos" of different plants.

"Frutos secos" is no plural for "fruta". "Frutas secas" would convey fruits that have gone dry (rotten) not frutas that have undergone some kind of process, like "frutas escarchadas/confitadas" (candied fruit) or "frutas desecadas" (like raisins or dates). As you can see in "frutas escarchadas" you keep the gender of the word "fruta" (they are made of what is considered to be fruit from a Spanish language point of view and hey keep the name).

  • 1
    The generic English name for frutos secos is nuts, not dried fruits. dried fruits are frutas desecadas. So in English they make a similar distinction as in Spanish: dried fruits are indeed fruits.
    – rsanchez
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 22:41

Here in Argentina we use both.

"Fruta" and "Fruto" are two different words, as it was said above. Which isn't to say there aren't spanish words that have ambiguous gender either (see "mar" [sea] that can be used with both masculine [el mar] and feminine [la mar] articles, though the latter is of a more poetic use), but that doesn't apply on this particular case.

"Frutas secas" and "Frutos secos" refer to different things, but can be interchangeable. It can cause some confusion, but people will understand you anyway.

"Frutas secas" = "Frutas abrillantadas/confitadas", dried fruit. Can be used to refer to "Frutos secos" too. Here that's pretty common, actually, since we use "Fruta abrillantada" a lot more than "Fruta seca". Not sure in other countries, though.

"Frutos secos" = Nuts. You wouldn't use this one to refer to dried fruits, however. "Frutos secos" are always nuts.


"fruto" y "fruta" son palabras distintas. Como se ve en la definición que aparece en el Diccionario de la Real Academia Española. Las frutas son frutos pero no todos los frutos son frutas.


Del lat. fructus.

  1. m. Producto del desarrollo del ovario de una flor después de la fecundación, en el que quedan contenidas las semillas, y en cuya formación cooperan con frecuencia tanto el cáliz como el receptáculo floral y otros órganos.

  2. m. Producto de las plantas, que, aparte de la utilidad que puede tener, sirve para desarrollar y proteger la semilla.

  3. m. Hijo, con relación a un matrimonio, y, especialmente, con relación a la mujer.

  4. m. Producción del ingenio o del trabajo humano.

  5. m. Producto o resultado obtenido.

  6. m. pl. Producciones de la tierra con que se hace cosecha.


Del lat. tardío fructa, pl. de fructum 'fruto'.

  1. f. Fruto comestible de ciertas plantas cultivadas; p. ej., la pera, la guinda, la fresa, etc.

  2. f. coloq. Producto de algo o consecuencia de ello.


You are referring to two different words: fruta and fruto they are not masculine or feminine of each other, they are just, different words. Look them up in your dictionary. (a wierder example would be llanta and llanto).

Now, referring to dried fruit, it is more natural to say fruta seca than frutos secos. It means, dried fruit, like dried mango, dried berries, pasas, ciruelas pasas, higos secos, dátiles, semillas etc...

One of my favourite desserts is the Christmas Fruitcake, which requires a lot of ... fruta seca

Frutos secos, on the other hand, does not sound right.

  • Christmas fruitcake contains both fruta seca and frutos secos. Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 1:49
  • One of those ingredients I don't care for; I'm not sure which one. Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 2:26
  • 2
    "Frutos secos" sounds perfectly right in Spanish. Frutos secos are almonds, peanuts, some seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), nuts, etc. The ones you list are fruta seca. Check this link
    – Diego
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 4:25

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