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irregular italian nouns 1: masculine nouns that end in -a

We learned early on that masculine nouns end in -o and feminine ones in -a, and that in the plural, masculine and feminine nouns end in -i and -e respectively. Well, not always! For the next few weeks we're going to learn a few "rebel nouns" who thumb their noses at this.

Masculine Nouns That End in -a

Most of these are Greek in origin and end in -amma, -emma, -ama, -ema, -oma, -sma or -eta. Some examples:

il diaframma
il diagramma
il dramma
il melodramma
il programma
il telegramma

il dilemma
lo stemma

il diploma

il cataclisma
lo fantasma
il prisma

il pianeta
il poeta
il profeta

il poema
il problema
il sistema
il tema (theme)
il teorema

il panorama
il clima (climate)

A few more (that aren't necessarily Greek and don't follow the patterns above):

il papa (Pope)
il pigiama (PJs)
il paradigma
il cobra
il coma
il cruciverba (crossword)
il gorilla
il cinema (short for the obsolete "cinematografo")

Take note that all these nouns have regular masculine plurals (e.g. i pianeti, i problemi, i programmi, etc.).

Nouns that end in -ista can be masculine or feminine, depending on the biological gender of the person they refer to. Only the article differentiates. So il dentista is a male dentist, la dentista a female one. And so on for farmacista, giornalista, artista, etc. The plurals of these nouns however do reflect their grammatical gender (as well as the sex of their referents). So i dentisti is a group of dentists that includes at least one male, le dentiste a group of female dentists only.

Nouns that end in -cida or -iatra behave the same. So il suicida is a male who kills himself, la suicida a female (i suicidi a group with at least one male, le suicide all females). Other nouns in this category include fratricida, matricida, omicida and parricida. The most common -iatra noun is lo/la psichiatra (psychiatrist), which becomes gli psichiatri / le psichiatre in the plural. There's also pediatra and a few more less common ones.

Other nouns (harder to lump into categories) whose gender in the singular changes according to the sex of the person the noun refers to, and whose singular gender is denoted by the article only, include (but are not limited to)...

il/la cineasta
il/la collega
il/la ginnasta
il/la patriota
il/la pilota

Next week we'll look at some feminine nouns that end in -o. Ciao for now!

Reader Comments (1)

How come l'estate and l'aroma use the apostrophe. I know that la can be transformed this way with a vowel, but I thought il does not. Doesn't that mean those words are feminine and should not be on this list?
December 20, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterlionkryller

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