I read this in a random forum:
"Words neuter in Latin become masculine in Spanish"
(For instance "vāsum" = el vaso)

Could it be some patterns making predictable the gender from Latin to a descend language?

I always though it was a little random, in the sense that a word is "delatinized" becoming a part of a descend language, and the gender is chosen or changed by the popular use according to the sound of the ending.

Are there patterns for this, at least in some Romance languages?

  • 2
    Why do you think that it's random? There are certainly exceptions, but in general the gender is quite consistent between Latin and, say, French or Spanish.
    – brianpck
    Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 16:14
  • In French, I don't have the impression. Do you have rules about genders + ending in Latin, and their equivalent in Romance languages? I should edit the question to add "if you have some rules, I would be interested". In Spanish and French, both from Latin, and genders aren't consistent at all between those 2 languages.
    – Quidam
    Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 17:32
  • For instance: Latin dactylus, el dátil (masculine, Spanish), il dattero (masculine, Italian), la datte (feminine, French).
    – Quidam
    Commented Dec 8, 2019 at 5:23

1 Answer 1


"Words neuter in Latin become masculine in Spanish"

This is generally correct!

In Latin, the most common type of masculine noun and the most common type of neuter noun look almost identical. They're only distinguishable in the nominative singular and the nominative/accusative plural.

In the branch of Romance that would eventually become Spanish, the nominative case disappeared altogether—so the neuter looked exactly like the masculine in the singular.

What's more, the neuter plural looked exactly like the feminine, for reasons that go back to Proto-Indo-European and the origin of the feminine gender in the first place!

So because of these very regular changes, the neuter gender vanished into oblivion, with its words merged into the masculine. Occasionally you'll find Romance words that are masculine in the singular but feminine in the plural, like Italian uovo "egg", uova "eggs"—these are the only surviving remnants of the Latin neuter. (In Spanish, this particular example got regularized by analogy, and is now a perfectly regular masculine: huevo, huevos.)

In the comments, you mention Latin dactylus (m) > French datte (f). This sort of change happens sometimes, especially in Gallo-Romance (which doesn't have the same distinctive masculine/feminine endings that Ibero-Romance does). But it's an irregularity, and not a very common one; the majority of words kept their original gender from Latin into Romance, and the ones that didn't can usually be explained by analogy.

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