Is there any reason why some well-known plant names, especially tree names, are feminine, but 2nd declension? (now interested in classical, not scientific ones). For example:

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    You might find this useful latin.stackexchange.com/q/7353/39
    – Alex B.
    Sep 6, 2021 at 15:47
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    and you might learn something from latin.stackexchange.com/a/7017/39
    – Alex B.
    Sep 6, 2021 at 15:57
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    I hope someone else will answer this very interesting question. Meanwhile, a somewhat cryptic note from Weiss 2020, "In Greek and Latin, tree and plant names are regularly feminine, probably preserving an old pattern" (p. 243).
    – Alex B.
    Sep 6, 2021 at 19:02
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    @AlexB. it doesn't seem like this question is going to get an answer :( Do you think you could post one based on the points you've made above? Dec 28, 2021 at 11:13
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    Also see latin.stackexchange.com/q/10939/39
    – Alex B.
    Dec 29, 2021 at 3:20

1 Answer 1


It is the principle of feminine, that gives birth. Not all plants are feminine, but e.g. trees are, while fruit is in general neuter. E.g. malus, -i, f. (apple tree) and malum, -i, n. (apple). Not all are second declension, like quercus, -us, f. or ilex, -icis, f. In Latin, except for many plants, feminine are also for the same reason earth and parts, like islands and states - Sicilia, Sardinia, Hispania,Gallia, Italia, Illyria ... on the other side masculine is what fertilize, like winds, that carry semen, rivers, parts of great Oceanus that embraces the Earth like man does to a woman... Also, when they come from Greek, it could be feminine because it was feminine in Greek... not only connected with plant names e.g. dialectus, -i, f.

  • I just noticed that all edible-fruit-bearing trees and shrubs that are native to temperate Europe are feminine in Polish, with exception of orzech "walnut" (not exactly a typical fruit) and agrest "gooseberry" (a loan from Latin, so it probably doesn't count; also, it has multiple native synonyms that are feminine, like kosmatka). So there might be something to it.
    – Karol S
    May 10, 2022 at 11:17

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