Gender (Lesson 6)

Arabic words are of two types with regards to gender: (1) مُذَكَّرٌ  – masculine and (2) مُؤَنَّثٌ – feminine, e.g. اِبْنٌ – son is masculine and اِبْنَةٌ – daughter is feminine.

When a tā ta’nīth – the round ta’ which is a sign of feminine words – ة is appended to the end of a masculine noun, it becomes feminine, e.g. اِبْنٌ changes to اِبْنَةٌ. Similarly حَسَنٌ changes to حَسَنَةٌ and مَلِكٌ – “king” changes to مَلِكَةٌ – “queen” etc. This rule applies more to adjectives اسم الصفة and sometimes to اسم الذات.

In some words, the alif maqsūrah (… يٰ ) or the alif mamdūdah ( اء __ ) is a sign of the word being feminine, e.g. حُسْنٰى – a beautiful lady; زَهْرَاءُ – radiant.

Some nouns are feminine without any sign of being feminine. They are known as مُؤَنَّثٌ سِماَعِيٌّ – as heard from the Arabs. The details are as follows:

  • any word referring to a woman, e.g. اُمٌّ – mother; عَرُوْسٌ – bride; هِنْدٌ – a woman’s name, or India.

  • the names of countries, e.g. مِصْرُ – Egypt, اَلشَّامُ – Syria, اَلرُّوْمُ – The Roman Empire.

  • parts of the body in pairs, e.g. يَدٌ – hand, رِجْلٌ – foot, أُذُنٌ – ear, عَيْنٌ – eye.

  •  Besides the above-mentioned nouns, there are other nouns which are used as feminine by the Arabs. Some of them are:

أَرْضٌ – earth
حَرْبٌ – war
خَمْرٌ – wine
دَارٌ – house
رِيْحٌ – wind
سُوْقٌ – market
شَمْسٌ – sun
نَارٌ  – fire
نَفْسٌ – soul

Although some words have a ( ة ) at the end, they are masculine in usage because they refer to males, e.g. طَرَفَةُ – name of a poet, خَلِيْفَةٌ – the leader of the Muslims, عَلاَمَةٌ – a very learned scholar (though this word is also used for females as well). Just as an adjective corresponds to its noun in being definite or indefinite, so does it correspond in gender.

Vocabulary List No. 3

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