Why is the word Gestapo feminine? Almost all other (non-abbreviated) loanwords I can think of ending in -o have been absorbed as masculine. Is it because it is associated with policía?


Is it because it is associated with policía?

The answer is yes according to the DPD (Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas):


1. Se llama sigla tanto a la palabra formada por las iniciales de los términos que integran una denominación compleja, como a cada una de esas letras iniciales. Las siglas se utilizan para referirse de forma abreviada a organismos, instituciones, empresas, objetos, sistemas, asociaciones, etc.

4. Género. Las siglas adoptan el género de la palabra que constituye el núcleo de la expresión abreviada, que normalmente ocupa el primer lugar en la denominación: el FMI, por el «Fondo» Monetario Internacional; la OEA, por la «Organización» de Estados Americanos; la Unesco, por la United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural «Organization» (‘Organización de Naciones Unidas para la Educación, la Ciencia y la Cultura’)

Let me try to translate the quoted text:

1.We apply the name sigla both to the word formed by the initials of the terms that combine in a complex denomination and to each of the initial letters. Siglas are used to refer in an abbreviated form to organizations, institutions, companies, objects, systems, associations, etc

4.Gender. Siglas adopt the gender of the word that represents the nucleus of the abbreviated expression, that which usually occupies the first place in the term: el FMI (Fondo Monetario Internacional; la OEA (Organización de Estados Americanos), la UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), ...

So, it seems that Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) follows this rule, its nucleus being polizei.

Thinking about this question, I've realized that there is a rare exception to this rule: KGB (in Spanish: Comité para la Seguridad del Estado). I've read both el KGB and la KGB. We can use el taking Comité as its nucleus but we also may use la because KGB is a secret police agency, like their counterpart la CIA. KGB was an agency and a sort of police like the Gestapo so we use la as determiner as well.

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    mmm no sé hasta qué punto la entrada del DPD aplica aquí, pues estamos hablando de una palabra extranjera. Mar 19 '19 at 9:20
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    @fedorqui Si lees atentamente, en la propia entrada del DPD se menciona UNESCO (ver arriba), cuyas siglas no han sido traducidas al español y se usa tal cual. El mismo caso que en gestapo.
    – RubioRic
    Mar 19 '19 at 9:21
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    Sí, lo vi, pero no sé hasta qué punto está cogiendo organización del castellano, pues en inglés no hay género. Me parece algo forzado, vaya, que se vaya a la sigla original, se coja el núcleo, se mire el género y se aplique al castellano. Si fuera el caso, entonces habría que destacar que polizei en alemán es femenina. Por lo que veo en wordreference.com/ende/police sí es. Mar 19 '19 at 9:33
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    No entiendo esa parte de que se vaya a la palabra del idioma original a buscar el género, que es lo que parece que apunta guifa en su respuesta. Yo creo que se refiere al género de la palabla nuclear en español. Policía en español es femenino independientemente de lo que sea en alemán. CIA no tiene género en inglés, en español le ponemos la porque es una Agencia que es femenino en español.
    – RubioRic
    Mar 19 '19 at 9:36
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    @fedorqui Buró existe en castellano y es masculino, el Buró Federal de Investigación
    – RubioRic
    Mar 19 '19 at 9:53

In all the Romance languages, gestapo is feminine despite its ending. It is most likely that whichever language first imported it (probably either French or Italian) figured that because gestapo stands in for Geheime Staatspolizei (policía estatal secreta), the appropriate use would be to make it feminine as with the analogous words la police (FR), la polizia (IT) especially considering that polizei is, coincidentally, also feminine in German. Spanish and others, in turn, maintained that usage, although it's possible for separately and independently maintaining the feminine nature of policía/polizei.

Also, even though it ends in -o which normally pushes words to be masculine, I find that acronyms and abbreviations for organizations tend to maintain the connection to the base noun's gender moreso than more common nouns.

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    "...the appropriate use would be to make it feminine as it also is in German." - Do you mean that when borrowing the word from German, the language actually considers the article in the original language? (As opposed to say, borrowed words always/mostly being feminine)?
    – BruceWayne
    Mar 18 '19 at 21:11
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    @T.J.Crowder sistema isn't a loanword to Italian - it was inherited from Latin systēma, itself from Ancient Greek σύστημα (sústēma).
    – jacobo
    Mar 19 '19 at 9:40
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    @T.J.Crowder This Italian SE post might be of interest to you: italian.stackexchange.com/questions/8517/…
    – jacobo
    Mar 19 '19 at 10:23
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    @Phoog absolutely, it's counnidental in the sense that the German gender of the word likely had little to no influence on the gender chosen upon reimportation within Gestapo Mar 19 '19 at 16:50
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    "Stasi" = "Staatssicherheit" in German and as the last part of compound nouns in german determines the gender ("die Sicherheit") it s female in german. Not sure which gender it has in Espanol.
    – Maksim
    Mar 19 '19 at 17:20

The term "Gestapo" is a contraction of "Geheime Staatspolizei", and the last word "Polizei", which is feminine in German, determines the grammatical gender.

Cf also the very beginning of the Spanish Wikipedia entry for Gestapo:

La Gestapo (contracción de Geheime Staatspolizei: 'Policía Secreta del Estado') fue la policía secreta oficial de la Alemania nazi (...)

Until the year 1936 the term "Gestapa" was also in use, a contraction of "Geheimes Staatspolizeiamt", the last word being neuter in German.


The answer for this is simple - but you may not understand it fully if your native language has no specified gender for every word, such as it is in portuguese. The simple reason is that "La Gestapo" refers to "La Policia Gestapo", and "Policia" (police) is a feminine word.

There's really no specific rule for which words are masculine and which are feminine and that's why this issue may confuse those whose native language hasn't got this aspect.

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    As detailed in another answer, gestapo is a contraction of Geheime Staatspolizei which is German. "-po" means police, so "La Policia Gestapo" means "the police secret state police". Maybe this is Spanish idiom, probably adopted because the "wrong" word ending sounded awful to Spanish speakers, but I am curious as to why you didn't just change the word ending: "gestapa".
    – Peter Wone
    Mar 18 '19 at 23:59
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    But as another answer suggests there is a clear rule in Spanish for assigning the gender of abbreviations.
    – mdewey
    Mar 19 '19 at 14:53
  • @PeterWone: It is a bit when we say the Sahara Desert, even though "Sahara" means "desert" ("el desierto del Sahara" it's still a common phrase in Spanish). Mar 20 '19 at 10:44

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