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Common Gender Nouns in Spanish

Are you familiar with gender in Spanish, which classifies Spanish nouns into masculine and feminine? If so, you might also know that Spanish grammatical agreement stipulates that nouns' definite and indefinite articles should agree with the nouns they accompany in terms of gender. That said, since the vast majority of Spanish nouns that end in -o are masculine and most that end in -a are feminine, why do we see the masculine singular indefinite article un next to a noun that ends in -a below?


¡Eres un egoísta!

You're a selfish person!

Caption 31, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 12 - Part 8

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The reason for this apparent discrepancy is that, when used as a noun, the word egoísta (selfish person) falls into a Spanish noun category that is sometimes called "common gender nouns" that describe people and can take either masculine or feminine articles depending upon whether the described entity is male or female. With this in mind, let's learn a plethora of such nouns in Spanish as well as several categories that they often fall into. 


Spanish Common Gender Nouns That End in -Ista

Below are several Spanish nouns that end in -ista. While we have selected ten, there are countless more, many of which refer to professions in Spanish or people who adhere to particular beliefs. 


el/la artista (the artist)

el/la centrista (the centrist)

el/la colonialista (the colonialist) 

el/la dentista (the dentist)

el/la derechista (the right-winger)

el/la futbolista (the soccer player)

el/la izquierdista (the leftist)

el/la novelista (the novelista)

el/la periodista (the journalist)

el/la vocalista (the vocalist)


Now, let's see two of these in context, noting how their articles change when describing males vs. females.



¿No oyó la periodista Yasmín?

Didn't you hear Yasmín the [female]  journalist?

Caption 28, Kikirikí Agua - Part 3

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el periodista y el entrevistado llegaron a las manos, ¿hm?,

the [male] journalist and the interviewee came to blows, hmm?

Caption 51, Aprendiendo con Silvia Frases hechas - Part 5

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El dentista, la dentista.

The male dentist, the female dentist.

Caption 32, Isabel El Género Gramatical - Masculino y Femenino

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Spanish Common Gender Nouns That End in -Crata

The genders of the following Spanish words that end in -crata (the equivalent of -crat in English) also vary according to real life gender:


el/la autócrata (the autocrat)

el/la burócrata (the bureaucrat)

el/la demócrata  (the democrat)

el/la aristócrata (the aristocrat)


Let's look at an example that describes a male aristocrat:


Desde luego, será un aristócrata,

Of course, he'd be an aristocrat,

Caption 56, Beatriz Expresiones con colores

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Note how this sentence could be modified to describe a female aristocrat with the simple substitution of a feminine article:


Desde luego, será una aristócrata

Of course, she'd be an aristocrat,


More Spanish Common Gender Nouns That End in -A

In addition to the aforementioned categories, here are several more Spanish nouns ending in -a whose articles reveal their gender:


el/la guía (the guide)

el/la policía (the police officer)

el/la psicópata (the psychopath)

el/la sociópata (the sociopath)

el/la terapeuta (the therapist)


Spanish Common Gender Nouns That End in -O

While it may seem counterintuitive to call a female fashion model una modelo, that is indeed the correct way to say it, while a male model would be un modelo. Here are a few more common gender nouns in Spanish that end in -with examples of the latter.


el/la miembro (the member)

el/la modelo (the model)

el/la soldado (the soldier)

el/la testigo (the witness)


Sí, tengo un testigo

Yes, I have a [male] witness.

Caption 2, Los casos de Yabla El perrito malcriado - Part 2

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quisiera invitar a este estrado a una testigo que va a demostrar 

I'd like to invite to this stand a [female] witness who is going to prove

Captions 63-64, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 5 - Part 4

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Spanish Common Gender Nouns That End in -E

Although most Spanish nouns that end in -e are specifically masculine (e.g. el coche/the car) or feminine (e.g. la llave/the key) and thus require a masculine or feminine article, some can refer to either men or women with articles that vary accordingly. Let's see a list of several plus two examples describing both a male and a female "lover."


el/la amante (the lover)

el/la ayudante (the helper)

el/la cantante (the singer)

el/la estudiante (the student)

el/la integrante (the member)

el/la interprete (the interpreter

el/la paciente (the patient)

el/la recipiente (the recipient)


Descubrí que Marcela tiene un amante.

I found out that Marcela has a [male] lover.

Caption 2, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 2 - Part 3

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¿Tiene una amante? Eso es lo que quiero saber.

Does he have a [female] lover? That is what I want to know.

Caption 9, Muñeca Brava 3 Nueva Casa - Part 7

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That's all for today. We hope that this lesson has clarified one scenario in Spanish where you might see a masculine article with a word ending in -a, a feminine article with one that ends in -o or the very same noun with a masculine or feminine article. For more on Spanish nouns that are a bit nontraditional in terms of gender, be sure to read our lesson on epicene nouns in Spanish, and don't forget to write us with your questions and comments


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