Determining the Gender of French Nouns

Masculine and Feminine Noun Endings

Red metro sign with light in Paris, France
Based on the ending of the word 'metro' is the word masculine or feminine?.

carterdayne/Getty Images 

French gender is a headache for many students of French. Why is manteau masculine and montre feminine? Why is témoin always masculine and victime always feminine? As vexing as this subject is for nonnative speakers, we simply have to accept that French gender is here to stay. In fact, consider yourself lucky that you're studying French; in German and Latin, for instance, you'd have to learn three genders (masculine, feminine and neuter), and in still other languages, it gets even more complicated. It might help to know that grammatical gender (what we're discussing here) has nothing to do with natural gender, which is actual, physical gender of living beings.

Linguist Andrew Livingston tells us grammatical gender is a way of classing nouns that's older than recorded history. It's deeply embedded in the DNA of an array of Indo-European languages that trace their lineage to a common ancestor, which probably needed to differentiate between the animate and the inanimate. In French, there's simply no way to know the gender of every single noun other than by memorizing the gender of each. There are, however, certain patterns in suffixes and word endings that are a tip-off. As you can see by the number of exceptions here, these gender patterns are not foolproof indicators, but they can help.

Before we begin, a couple of notes: We try to list the most common and, thus, most useful exceptions; we avoid obscure exceptions. Also, to avoid confusion, we do not list dual-gender nouns

French Masculine Nouns

Here are some suffixes that usually indicate masculine nouns, as well as some important exceptions.

Exceptions: la cage, une image, la nage, la page, la plage, la rage


Exceptions: une cible, une étable, une fable, une table

Exception: la fac (apocope of la faculté)

Exception: une boucle


Exceptions: la bride, la merde, la méthode, la pinède; -ade, -nde, -ude endings

Exceptions: la clé, la psyché; sé, té, and tié endings

Exceptions: l'eau, la peau

Exception: la Norvège


Note: This applies mainly to names of professions and mechanical or scientific things; also see -eur in the list of feminine endings.

Exceptions: la soif, la clef, la nef

Exceptions: la foi, la fourmi, la loi, la paroi




Exception: une roseval

Exception: la faim

Exceptions: une alarme, une âme, une arme, la cime, la coutume, la crème, l'écume, une énigme, une estime, une ferme, une firme, une forme, une larme, une plume, une rame, une rime, -mme ending

Exception: une jument

Exceptions: la façon, la fin, la leçon, la main, la maman, la rançon; -son and -ion endings

Exceptions: la dactylo, la dynamo, la libido, la météo, la moto, la steno (most of these are apocopes of longer feminine words)





Exceptions: la chair, la cour, la cuiller, la mer, la tour (see feminine -eur)

Exceptions: la brebis, la fois, une oasis, la souris, la vis

Exceptions: la liste, la modiste, la piste; names for people like un(e) artiste, un(e) nudiste, etc.

Exceptions: la burlat, la dent, la dot, la forêt, la jument, la mort, la nuit, la part, la plupart, la ziggourat

Exceptions: la fenêtre, une huître, la lettre, la montre, la rencontre, la vitre

Exceptions: l'eau, la peau, la tribu, la vertu

Exceptions: la croix, la noix, la paix, la toux, la voix

Feminine Noun Endings

Here are some suffixes that usually indicate feminine nouns, as well as some important exceptions. Remember, we list here the most common endings, because these will be the most useful for you to know.

Exceptions: un ace, un palace

Exceptions: le grade, le jade, le stade

Exceptions: un châle, un pétale, un scandale


Exceptions: un cube, un globe, un microbe, un tube, un verbe

Exceptions: un artifice, un armistice, un appendice, le bénéfice, le caprice, le commerce, le dentifrice, le divorce, un exercice, un office, un orifice, un précipice, un prince, un sacrifice, un service, le silence, le solstice, le supplice, un vice

Exception: un crustacé

 Most countries and names that end in e are feminine.

Exception: un pedigree

Exceptions: un apogée, un lycée, un musée, un périgée, un trophée


Note: This applies mainly to abstract qualities and emotions, except le bonheur, l'extérieur, l'honneur, l'intérieur, le malheur, le meilleur. Also see -eur on the list of masculine endings.

Exception: le golfe

Exceptions: un incendie, le foie, le génie, le parapluie, le sosie

Exceptions: l'arrière, le cimetière, le derrière

Exceptions: le capitaine, le domaine, le moine, le magazine, le patrimoine

Exceptions: un avion, un bastion, un billion, un camion, un cation, un dominion, un espion, un ion, un lampion, un lion, un million, le morpion, un pion, un scion, un scorpion, un trillion

Exceptions: un graphique, un périphérique

Exceptions: un auditoire, un commentaire, un dictionnaire, un directoire, un horaire, un itinéraire, l'ivoire, un laboratoire, un navire, un pourboire, le purgatoire, le répertoire, le salaire, le sommaire, le sourire, le territoire, le vocabulaire


Exceptions: l'anthracite, un ermite, le granite, le graphite, le mérite, l'opposite, le plébiscite, un rite, un satellite, un site, un termite

Exceptions: le braille, un gorille, un intervalle, un mille, un portefeuille, le vaudeville, le vermicelle, le violoncelle

Exceptions: un dilemme, un gramme, un programme

Exception: le monde


Exceptions: le contrôle, le monopole, le rôle, le symbole

Exceptions: le beurre, le parterre, le tonnerre, le verre

Exceptions: un carosse, un colosse, le gypse, l'inverse, un malaise, un pamplemousse, un parebrise, le suspense

Exceptions: un exposé, un opposé


Exceptions: un blason, un blouson

Exceptions: un arrêté, le comité, le comté, le côté, un député, un été, le pâté, le traité


Exception: le bastion

Exceptions: le coude, un interlude, le prélude

Exception: un abaque

Exceptions: le préambule, le scrupule, le tentacule, le testicule, le véhicule, le ventricule, le vestibule

Exceptions: le centaure, le cyanure, le dinosaure, le murmure

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Team, ThoughtCo. "Determining the Gender of French Nouns." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Team, ThoughtCo. (2023, April 5). Determining the Gender of French Nouns. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "Determining the Gender of French Nouns." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).