Certain nouns, including agricola, nauta, athleta, pirata, and others, are classified in textbooks as masculine. But are these always masculine, even when referring to a female, as in "Haec femina est nauta peritus"? Or should it be nauta perita, even if we don't have any documented uses of the noun as feminine?

Similar nouns in modern Romance languages (e.g. turista) are used in either gender. Is this true also in Latin, only not as common because of the rarity of female farmers, pirates, and so forth in the ancient Latin world?

1 Answer 1


According to the conclusion of one discussion, constructions in which these nouns are modified by feminine adjectives, when referring to females, are

not so much avoided as simply not needed ... There is no grammatical reason not to treat these as common gender or epicene nouns. There are adjectives in the same declension class, like ruricola and indigena, that can modify nouns referring to females. And many nouns like transfuga, conviva, auriga, athleta ... are listed as common gender.*

* (Common gender is indicated by "com.", "comm.", or "m. and f." in Lewis & Short.)

Forcellini categorizes ruricola and indigena as "adject. comm. gen." or "omn. gen.", but of advena he notes,

inde ab origine est gen. masc., deinde saepius tamquam Adjectivum usurpatum fuit fem. gen., immo neutr. ... Hinc est gen. comm.

(I.e. it was originally a noun like nauta, but came to be used more frequently as an adjective of common gender, just as ruricola and indigena.)

The only documented usage of such a noun modified by a feminine adjective that I could find is "postquam conveni omnes convivas meas", by Sextus Pomponius (2nd century) quoted by the grammarian Charisius (Lewis & Short s.v. conviva).

Other insights are welcome.

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