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I was looking through a feature in some Romance languages, Spanish and French, where nouns in Spanish change depending on gender. I was wondering if Latin had a few of these. Here are examples in Spanish and in French.

Particular examples are

  • el consonante: rhyme, la consonante: the consonant (Spanish)

  • le bal: dance, la balle: ball (French)

Nothing contrived such as canis, canis, m/f meaning one is a male dog and the other is female.

Nemo, neminis, m/f and dies, diei, m/f are nouns of ambiguous gender which is a different situation.

  • 4
    Obligatory Spanish example: ¿Cómo se escribe "papa" en Inglés? – Davy M Aug 21 '19 at 2:43
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    The most puzzling example to me is that in French people use the male version of "day" to say "hi" and the female to say "bye" (Bonjour / Bonne journée – Bon soir / Bonne soirée). – Stian Yttervik Aug 21 '19 at 10:18
  • Similar examples in Spanish: el papa=the pope, la papa=the potato; la radio=the radio broadcast (the content you listen to), el radio=the radio set (what sits on your desk). – Robert Columbia May 6 at 12:58
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The masculine noun flāmen denotes a type of priest. The etymologically unrelated neuter noun flāmen means 'a blast, gust (of wind)' or 'an exhalation, breath.'

Also, generally, the words for various fruit trees and the fruits that they produce differ only in gender. Examples include cerasus (f.), 'cherry tree,' vs. cerasum (n.), 'cherry'; mālus (f.), 'apple tree,' vs. mālum (n.), 'apple'*; prūnus (f.), 'plum tree,' vs. prūnum, 'plum'; and cornus (f.), 'cornelian cherry tree,' vs. cornum (n), 'cornelian cherry'.


* There are also a masculine noun mālus that means 'pole' or 'mast,' and a feminine noun māla that means 'the lower part of the face' (referring esp. to the cheeks or jaws). I'm excluding forms of the adjective mălus from consideration because the a is short in that word but long in these.

† There's also a feminine noun prūna that means 'a live coal' or 'glowing charcoal.'

‡ There's also the neuter noun cornū, 'horn,' which may overlap in some forms with cornus and cornum.

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In fact, dies does have a slightly different meaning in the two genders. The masculine is the more general meaning, but for specific meanings like an appointed special day or day as a deity you need the feminine. This division probably has to do with the word being originally masculine but being leveled to feminine gender to conform with the rest of the fifth declension.

Another common example is the plural of locus. The masculine plural loci refers to individual places, whereas loca refers to connected places. This has to do with the collective meaning of the neuter plural. The two plurals look a little different, but this is similar to the French example you mention.

For more details, check the related questions on dies and loci/loca.

For an example related to canis, consider lupus and lupa. While they primarily mean "he-wolf" and "she-wolf", the feminine version has the additional meaning of a prostitute but the masculine one does not.

For yet another example, there are the nouns gallus (a rooster) and galla (a nut or bad wine) in addition to the adjective gallus (Gallic).

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  • 1
    Gallus also denotes a castrated priest of Cybele – cnread Aug 20 '19 at 18:54
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    @cnread So not just roosters but also capons.... – C Monsour Jan 11 at 20:11
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If I got it right, you are asking if there are homophones in Latin. Unsurprisingly, as (I suppose) in any language, there are plenty of them!

For example, you can find a non-exhaustive list on the Wiktionary.

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    Actually, I do not think any of these are real homonyms. Almost all are words that can be used both as common and proper nouns. Anyway, the question was about homonyms of two different genders. – fdb Aug 20 '19 at 16:32
  • fusus (noun) and fusus (participle) are indeed homonyms, but both are masculine. – fdb Aug 20 '19 at 16:37
  • I think the question was asked because the website Lenny read presents homophones as something very particular to French, which is quite strange. – Luc Aug 20 '19 at 17:12

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