Arabic Language Blog

Nouns الأسماء /Al-Asma’a / : Gender الجنس /Al-Genss/ Posted by on Mar 11, 2011 in Arabic Language, Culture, Grammar, Uncategorized, Vocabulary

* Arabic Nouns fall into two main categories concerning their Gender:

          (1) Masculine مذكر /Mozakkar/            &          (2) Feminine مؤنث /Mo’annath/    

* There some other sub-categories to these two main ones.

*  Note that:

 The Gender of a word is mostly determined by its Form not by the Concept it refers to;

For example the noun “rose وردة  /wharda/”  is Feminine مؤنث /Mo’annath/ .

However, it has two plurals; “ورد” /whard/ (Masculine) and “ورود” /worood/ Feminine)

The Markers of the Feminine Nouns علامات التأنيث /Alamat Al-Ta’neeth/

There are three Markers that come at the end of the noun and make it Feminine:

(1) The Ta’aneeth Ta’a  ـة / ة )    تاء التأنيث ):

         It is the tied Ta’a letter attached to the end of the feminine noun.

             Examples:   – Fatimah فاطمة             – (she) Muslim مسلمة /moslimah            

                                 – an orange برتقالة /Bortoqalah/         – life حياة /hayah/ 

                              – table أريكة /areekah/               – cat قطة /qittah/         

(2) The Maqsorah Ta’aneeth Alif  ــى / ى )  ألف التأنيث المقصورة ) :

It is the letter ya’a (either written attached or separate) at the end of the feminine noun.

         Examples:   – Salma سلمى /salma’/               – Boshra بشرى /boshra’/

                                  – Huda هدى /huda’/                – (she) thirsty  عطشى /atcha’/                

(3) The Mamdoodah Ta’aneeth Alif اء ) ألف التأنيث الممدودة ) 

   It is the letters Alif + Hamza ( اء ) coming at the end of the feminine noun.

                      Examples: – Haiyfa’a هيفاء /haiyfa’a/                 – desert صحراء /sahara’a/

                                         – prophets أنبياء /anbiya’a/             – (she) red حمراء /hamra’a/

Types of Feminine Nouns أنواع المؤنث /Anwa’a Al-Mo’annath/

(1) The Real Feminine المؤنث الحقيقى /Al-Mo’annath Al-Haqiqi/

     It is the noun given to a female or an animal that can give birth or lay eggs.

                         Examples:    – woman امرأة /emra’ah/       – cow بقرة /baqarah/    

                                              – ostrich نعامة /na’amah/       – goose وزة /wizza’ah/ 

(2) The Unreal Feminine المؤنث المجازى /Al-Mo’annath Al-Majazi /

It is the unreal feminine which the Arabs treated as a feminine. It can be anything.

                        Examples:     – eye عين /A’yn/                       – home دار /da’ar/ or بيت /bayt/

                                             – table أريكة /Areekah/            – desert صحراء /sahara’a/        

(3) The Abstract Feminine المؤنث المعنوى /Al-Mo’annath Al-ma’nawy/

      It refers to a real female noun but without having any feminine markers.

                      Examples:    – Zeinab زينب /zaynab/         – Salma سلمى /salma/

                                             – Amal أمل /amal/                  – ass أتان /ataan/

(4) The Vocal Feminine المؤنث اللفظى /Al-Mo’annath Al-Lafzy/

       It is a noun given to a male but has a marker of the feminine at its end.

                  Examples:   – Hamzah حمزة /hamzah/       – Mo’awiyah معاوية /mo’awiyah/

                                   –  Zakariyah زكريا /zakariyah/       – Mossa’ موسى /moss’a/

(5) Abstract Vocal Feminine المؤنث المعنوى اللفظى  /Al-Mo’annath Al-Ma’nayw Al-Lafzy/ 

It is a noun referring to a real female noun which has a feminine marker at its end.

              Examples:          – Fatimah فاطمة /fatimah/            – Sarah سارة /sarah/

                                       – Sana’a سناء /sana’a/               – Wafa’a وفاء /wafa’a/   


 Next time, we will continue looking at Nouns: Number

 Check us back soon

 Peace سلام   / Salam

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About the Author: Fisal

Well, I was born near the city of Rasheed or Rosetta, Egypt. Yes, the city where the Rosetta Stone was discovered. It is a small city on the north of Egypt where the Nile meets the Mediterranean. I am a Teacher of EFL.


  1. Juan:

    Hello Fisal,

    Very useful for me. I have a question.
    Names as earth أرض, fire نار in arabic are feminine without markings. In which group they fit, group 2 or group 3?


    • Fisal:

      @Juan @ Juan …. These nouns you mentioned fall in group 2. They are unreal feminine nouns. There are also, some nouns which can be treated as fiminine or masculine like neutral nouns in English e.g. well بئر and road طريق or سبيل . To judge the gender of a noun, use the demonstrative nouns (This هذا for masculine and هذه for feminine) before this noun.

  2. Scheich Josef:

    مرحبا يا فيصل

    you write that the noun “rose وردة /wharda/” has two plurals; “ورد” /whard/ and “ورود” /worood/.

    According to my grammar the collective noun “ورد” /whard/ (masculine) is a singular noun and its plural is “ورود” /worood/ (feminine).

    The noun “rose وردة /wharda/” (feminine) is the nomen unitatis of the collective noun “ورد” /whard/ (masculine). It has only one plural, namely the sound (regular) feminine plural “وردات” /whardaat/ (feminine).

    It might also be mentioned that the “vocal feminine” nouns in (4) are not feminine but masculine nouns.



    • Fisal:

      @Scheich Josef اهلا شيخ يوسف
      (1) Starting from your last remark, I said in my post that the nouns are given to males ; Hamzah is a man and so is Mossa’, so yes they are masculine nouns in concept but they are feminine in form as they have the feminine marker suffixes (Ta’a) of the feminine and the Maqsorah (Alif ى ) at the end. So, you should read back.
      (2) For “rose, وردة ” I was just giving examples to show that the gender is determined only by the form of the word and a word can change gender if the form is changed.
      (3) I assure you that the noun ورد /whard/ is plural in Arabic. You can consult “Al-Mo’jam Al-Waseet”.
      (4) According to English Grammar, some Collective nouns can be be only plural like “Police and people” while others can be either singular or plural like “class and family”.
      Finally, You have all excuse since you are not a native Arabic speaker. I hope things are clear now.

  3. Scheich Josef:

    مرحبا يا فيصل

    thank you for your kind reply and your explanations.

    According to Book I, page 2935, of Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon of 1863 the Arabic word “ورد” /whard/ is a “collective generic noun”, “also called a lexicological plural”. Of course, this اسم الجنس الجمعي has a collective meaning in its singular form (see page 29 of Haywood and Nahmad’s New Arabic Grammar of the Written Language of 1993). Therefore it is listed in “Al-Mo’jam Al-Waseet” as a lexicological plural.

    The grammatical plural of nouns of non-human beings is in Arabic always feminine. This contradicts in my opinion your claim that the masculine noun “ورد” /whard/ is a plural of “rose وردة /wharda/”.



  4. Fisal:

    أهلا شيخ يوسف
    For the gender of the noun ” ورد “, Let’s apply a very simple rule: What Demonstrative Noun precedes it? هذا ? or هذه ?
    In Arabic, we say: هذا الورد Not هذه الورد . The conclusion is that the plural noun “ورد ” is Masculine Not feminine.
    We differentiate between the singualr and plural of collective generic nouns by the (Ta’a) , so the plural of وردة is ورد exactly like (شجرة/شجر) and (ثمرة/ثمر) and (نخلة/نخل)and (نحلة/نحل)
    P.S. I was hoping my blog is not going that far deep in the grammar as it is mainly for beginners.

  5. Scheich Josef:

    مرحبا يا فيصل

    of course I do agree with you that the collective generic noun “ورد” /whard/ is masculine and that therefore هذا الورد is correct. On the other hand we have
    هذه الوردات ,هذه الوردة amd هذه الورود.

    But it is interesting to search the web with Google for the wrong expression هذه الورد and to find numerous Arabic pages where this wrong form is being used by native Arabs.

    One explanation would be that this is just a typing error and that for example هذه الوردة or هذه الورود is meant.

    Another explanation would be that the noun “ورد” /whard/ is being considered a (grammatical) plural, which according to the Arabic grammar rules would then have to be feminine.

    Or do you have another explanation for this incorrect use on many Arabic web pages?



  6. Fisal:

    أهلا يا شيخ يوسف
    I think the first explanation is correct. It is just a typing error. Evidence!? Google itself offers a correction. it says: Do you mean هذا الورد .

  7. Juan:

    Thanks for this one and for the new posts,
    I have a rather simple question,
    The word “water”, ماء is masculine or femenine?


    • Fisal:

      @Juan Hi Juan,
      water ماء is masculine in Arabic. We say “This water هذا الماء
      However, the plural is مياه and it is feminine. We say “هذه المياه

  8. Ruksana Mohd Azim:

    I want to know if al huda …..guidance as in an idea (not a known girls name which is ofcoz feminine) feminine or masculine……and can u really call every noun with alif maqsura n mamduda feminine like taa marbuta?????