How to find the gender of a Latin noun.

I received this inquiry from a student:

“I think one question I have is how do I know if a word is Masculine, feminine or neuter when they are not in root form?

For instance, on togarum I matched it with the neuter endings for nominative, accusative, an masculine accusative but that was wrong.”

Here is my reply:

Watch for the letter “a” somewhere in the ending.  If it is there, the word is likely feminine.  If it is not there, the word is masculine, or neuter.

If it is masculine or neuter, it’s a little tricky.  You just have to memorize the gender of the word when you learn it.

(Of course, we are only dealing with 1st and 2nd declension nouns.  Things get weird when the 3rd declension shows up.)

Words that end in -us are masculine.  They include words like:

  • equus (horse)
  • cactus (well… cactus)
  • digitus (finger), and
  • gladius (sword).

Words that end in -um are neuter.   They include words like:

  • oppidum (town)
  • donum (gift)
  • braccium (arm), and
  • stagnum (pond).

Once you start adding all the endings, though, things get confusing.  I still get confused sometimes.  Often, I have to look up the gender of a word.  It’s okay.  That’s part of the learning process.

Use Whitaker’s words.  Type the word in.  The form of the word does not matter.  Whitaker’s words will give you the gender of the word.

For example, If you type in togis, you will see this:

tog.is               N      1 1 LOC P F                 

tog.is               N      1 1 DAT P F                 

tog.is               N      1 1 ABL P F                 

toga, togae  N  F   [XXXBX]

toga; (outer garment of Roman citizen);

Look at the fourth line.  The “N” after togae means “Noun”.  The “F” means “Feminine”.

This is an easy way to find the gender of a Latin noun.