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"La Mano" - Why is Hand feminine but -o?

I already knew this was the case but I though this would be a good place for a discussion. Does anybody know the historical reason (if any) that Hand is a feminine noun (La mano) but ends in an 'o' like a masculine noun? I'm just curious.

April 22, 2013


  • 2264

I think simply because in Latin the word manus was a feminine one, from the IV declension I think; from that declension was also the feminine tribus (Italian tribù, tribe), but I think most of them were masculine.

There are more troubling endings anyway, like those becoming feminine in the plural: "il braccio" (the arm) has both "i bracci" (e.g. chair arms) and "le braccia" (human arms); "l'uovo" becomes "le uova", and so on.

April 22, 2013


Interesting. What about all those other feminine nouns that were not around when latin was alive? La moto, la radio, la nave etc. And I have to say, as an experienced person of medicine, that they got it totally wrong when they called the breast "il seno" Che pazza! :)

April 22, 2013

  • 2264

Well, moto is a shortening of motocicletta, a modern portmanteau of motore+bicicletta; la radio is a shortening of radiofonia (radio broadcast) or radioricevitore (radio receiver), while "il radio" is both the bone radius and the element radium; nave is actually from the Latin navis (III declension) and it's not so strange as a lot of words, both feminine and masculine, end in -e (fiore, piacere, arte, pace, carne). As for breasts, there are feminine words as well :) In some dialects there are even feminine words for the male organ, go figure :P

April 23, 2013


and masculine names for the female organ too :)

April 25, 2013


A couple rules of thumb regarding irregular noun genders: body parts are bound to have irregular gender endings and even to swap genders in plural fruit is always the female gender, while the fruit tree is the male gender. For example, mèlo/mela (apple tree, apple), pesco/pesca (peach tree/peach).

January 1, 2014
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