La magneto is rare among -o terminal words in that it is feminine (at least in some dialects). The DLE gives its ultimate etymology as:

Del lat. magnes, -ētis 'imán1'.

Given the word has clearly not been directly inherited from Latin1 2, what is its etymology? Does it explain why it is feminine?

1. The only occurrence of magneto before 1881 in the RAE's CORDE is one example from the 14th century: "... turniano magneto leboreto..." (Gran crónica de España, Juan Fernández de Heredia (1385)).
2. The only pre-19th century occurrences of it in Google ngrams are references to Ancient Magnetum (Magneto in Portuguese).


1 Answer 1


If we look at its first modern use in Spanish, the earliest appearances of magneto in Spanish are as a compound adjective in the phrases "máquina magneto-eléctrica" and "aparato magneto-eléctrico". It appears the former term was more common, and the abbreviated form magneto eventually superseded it in popularity.

This etymology is confirmed in the following dictionary:

magneto, abrev. de máquina magneto-eléctrica [< lat. magnēs, -ētis, 'iman'], f.

The similar word dínamo appears to be feminine for analogous reasons:

L'Electrical Review de Londres propone dos medios de utilizar la fuerza del viento conmbinada con la del agua para obtener una fuerza regular y constante con aplicación á las máquinas dínamo-eléctricas.

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