Gender of Nouns

Book Nav

main

116. The gender of nouns is determined in most cases by the suffix. The following rules do not apply to compounds, as to which see § 125.

  1. Stems in -ο are masculine or neuter, with some exceptions
     
    • ὁδός
    • ἀταρπός
    • κέλευθος
    • νῆσος
    • φηγός
    • ἄμπελος
    • νόσος
    • τάφρος
    • ψῆφος
    • σποδός
    • ψάμαθος
    • ῥάβδος
    • δοκός
    • ῥινός
    • πρό-χοος

    In these the change of gender seems to be due to the meaning.

    κλυτός is used as a feminine in Il. 2.742 κλυτὸς Ἱπποδάμεια. In Od. 4.406 πικρὸν ἀποπνείουσαι . . . ὀδμήν it is best to take πικρόν as an adverb, not with ὀδμήν: cp. Il. 6.182.

    Πύλος has the two epithets ἠμαθόεις and ἠγαθέη, and is probably therefore of both genders.

  2. Stems in -η (for -ᾱ) are mainly feminine; but

    Stems in -τη denoting an agent are masculine.

    δέκ-τη-ς
    a beggar

    αἶχμητή-ς
    a warrior

    Also, πόρκη-ς the ring of a spear, ἔτη-ς comrade, ταμίη-ς dispenser, νεηνίη-ς a youth, perhaps ἀγγελ-ίη-ς a messenger; also the proper names Bορέα-ς, Ἑρμεία-ς, Aἰνεία-ς, Αὐγεία-ς, Τειρεσία-ς, Ἀγχίση-ς, Ἀΐδη-ς.

    The masculine nouns in -ᾱς, -ης are probably formed originally from feminine abstract or collective nouns in -ᾱ, -η. The first step is the use of the word as a concrete.

    Od. 22.209 ὁμηλικίη δέ μοί ἐσσι
    you are one of the same age (ὁμῆλιξ) wιth me

    Il. 12.213 δῆμον ἐόντα
    being οne of the common people

    So in Latin magistratus, potestas (Juv. 10.100), οptiο: English a relation (= a relative). The next step is the change to the masculine, which leads to the use of the endings -ης, genitive -αο on the analogy of the masculine -ος, genitive -οιο. We may compare

    French un trompette
    bearer of a trumpet

    Italian il podestà
    the magistrate

    where the change of meaning is marked by the gender only. So ἔτη-ς is probably from a word σϝέ-τη kindred, νεηνίη-ς from a feminine νεηνίῃ youth, ἀγγελίη-ς (if the word exists, see Buttmann, Lexil., s. v.) from ἀγγελίη. The masculine ταμίη-ς may be formed from the concrete feminine ταμίη, the office of household manager being generally filled by a woman (γύνη ταμίη Od.). And sο the nouns in -της owe their origin to the older abstract or collective nouns in -τη, as ἀκ-τή, βροντή, ἀρε-τή, γενε-τή, πινυ-τή, etc. See Delbrück, Synt. Fοrsch. iv. pp. 7-13.

  3. Stems in -ιᾰ, -ῐδ, -ᾰd are feminine; also most stems in -ι. But μάν-τι-ς is masculine, and some adjectives—ἴδ-ρι-ς, τρόφ-ι-ς, εὖνι-ς—are of all genders.

    Masculine nouns in -ο sometimes form a feminine in -ι, -ιδ, -ᾰδ.

    θοῦρο-ς, feminine θοῦρι-ς
    accusative θοῦρι-ν
    genitive θούριδ-ος

    φόρ-το-ς
    burden

    φόρ-τι-ς
    genitive φόρτιδ-ος
    a ship of burden

    τόκ-ος, feminine τοκάδ-ες

    λευκό-ς, feminine λευκάδ-α (πέτρην)

    Originally (as in Sanskrit) the chief feminine suffix was -ῑ. The meter shows that the long ι should be restored in ἦνι-ς (βοῦν ἦνιν εὐρυμέταωπον Il. 10.292, Od. 3.382), βλοσυρῶπις (Il. 11.36), and βοῶπις (Il. 18.357, where Ven. Α has βοῶπι πότνια Ἥρη). The ῑ appears also in ἀψῖδ-ος, κνημῖδας, ἑϋπλοκαμῖδ-ες.

  4. Adjectives in -ῠ generally form the feminine in -ειᾰ or -εᾰ (for -εϝ-ι̯ᾰ), as ἡδεῖα, ὠκέα. But θῆλυ-ς as a feminine is commoner than θήλεια; and we also find ἡδὺς ἀϋτμή (Od. 12.369), πουλὺν ἐφ ὑγρήν (Il. 10.27).

    On the other hand most substantives in -υ-ς are feminine (and oxytone), and this υ is frequently long, as in

    ἰθύ-ς1
    aim

    πληθύ-ς
    multitude

    ἰλύ-ς
    mud

    Ἐρινύ-ς

    and the abstract nouns in -τῡ-ς, as βρω-τύ-ς, ὁρχησ-τύ-ς, κλι-τύ-ς. But there are a few masculine substantives in -υ-ς, viz. θρῆνυ-ς, στάχυ-ς, βότρυ-ς, νέκυ-ς, ἰχθύ-ς.

  5. The suffix -εσ is almost confined in Homer to neuter substantives of abstract meaning; the only clear example of an adjective is ὑγιῆς (Il. 8.524). For ἐλεγχέ-ες (Il. 4.242, 24.239) we should probably read ἐλέγχεα. In Il. 4.235 (οὐ γὰρ ἐπὶ ψευδέσσι πατὴρ Ζεὺς ἔσσετʼ ἀρωγός) we may equally well read ψεύδεσσι (Zeus will not help falsehood). The genitive φραδέ-ος (Il. 24.354) may come from φραδής or φραδύς.

    It seems very probable that these words are to be accounted for in much the same vway as the masculines in -τηs, viz. as abstract turned into concrete nouns by a simple change of gender. The transition to a concrete meaning may be observed in ψεῦδος in such uses as

    Il. 9.115 οὐ γὰρ ψεῦδος ἐμὰς ἀτὰς κατέλεξας
    not falsely (lit. not falsehood) have you related my folly

    So ἐλέγχεα reproaches!

  6. Suffixes which are used to express an abstract or a cοllective meaning are generally feminine.

    κακό-ς
    coward

    κάκη
    cowardice

    ὁσίη
    piety

    φύζα, φυγ-ή
    flight

    βουλή
    counsel; the body of counsellors, a council

    φρόν-ι-ς
    understanding

    νιφ-άς (-άδ-ος)
    a snowstorm

    πληθ-ύ-ς
    multitude (collective and abstract)

    and the nouns in -τις (-σις), -τυς, -ως, -δων.

    It is probable that all the collective nouns in -ων, -ως, -ωρ (§ 114.8.d) were originally feminine. The change of gender may be traced in αἰών (feminine in Homer), and ἰδρώς (feminine in Aeοlic). In the case of ἔρως, γέλως it may be connected with the confusion between -ωσ stems and -ο stems (§ 107 ad fin.). It is to be noted that no nouns in -μων form the feminine with -ι̯α.

  • 1. whereas the adjective ἰθύ-ς straight has ῡ