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Culture

Our Everyday Greek – Masculine and Feminine Nouns

Gender in Greek is a grammatical category and is not identical with sex. Usually, however, words that refer to living beings of the male sex are of masculine gender, and those which refer to living beings of female sex are of feminine gender. Nouns, which in English are neuter, i.e., those referring to non-living things without regard to biological sex, are in Greek of the masculine, feminine or neuter grammatical gender.

Thus, γύρος (=gyro) is of masculine gender, πατάτα (=potato) is of feminine gender and σουβλάκι (=souvlaki) is of neuter gender. In the vocabulary lists the gender is indicated by the appropriate form of the definite article: ο for masculine nouns, η for feminine nouns and το for neuter nouns. While memorizing the vocabulary, it helps to learn each word’s gender and article. Can we guess the gender of a Greek noun?

USEFUL TIPIn most cases we can guess the gender from the ending of the noun. Each Greek noun is divided into two parts: a stem, which shows the dictionary meaning of the word, and an ending, which shows the noun’s number and case. i.e.,  ο γύρ-ος, η πατάτ-α, το σουβλάκ-ι. The table below will help you guess the gender and the correct article from the ending of the word. These are the most common endings of the masculine, feminine, and neuter nouns.

 

GENDER                 ARTICLE        ENDING

Masculine gender     ο                      -ος, -ης, -ας, -ες

Feminine gender       η                      -α, -η, -ω

Neuter gender           το                     -ι, -ο

 

Let’s apply the above rule in the names of the twelve Ancient Greek gods. You probably know their names in English. This is how they are written in Greek.

 

ARTICLE      GREEK NAME  PRONUNCIATION          ENGLISH NAME

o                      Δί-ας or Ζεύς    DEEas or ZEfs                   Zeus

o                     Ποσειδών-ας      posiDOnas                   Poseidon

o                     Απόλλων-ας       aPOlonas                         Apollo

o                     Ερμ-ής                erMEES                             Hermes

o                     Άρ-ης                  Aris                                     Ares

o                     Ήφαιστ-ος          EEfestos                Hephaestus

η                     Ήρ-α                   EEra                                    Hera

η                     Αθην-ά               athiNA                     Athena

η                     Δήμητρ-α            DEEmitra                           Dimitra

η                     Εστί-α                 eSTEEa                              Hestia

η                     Άρτεμ-η              Artemis                               Artemis

η                     Αφροδίτ-η          afroDEEti                           Aphrodite

 

The gender of the Ancient Greek god names can be easily guessed by their sex. Yet, the endings rule in defining the gender still applies. You can always refer to an example of a god name, if you want to remember which are the appropriate endings that define the masculine or the feminine gender. Thus words ending in –ας like: Δί-ας, Ποσειδών-ας, Απόλλων-ας, in –ης like: Ερμ-ής, Άρ-ης, and in –ος like: Ήφαιστος are of masculine gender and take the article ο. Words ending in –α like: Ήρ-α, Αθην-ά, Δήμητρ-α and in –η like: Άρτεμ-η, Αφροδίτ-η are of feminine gender and take the article η.

Let’s add some more well known ancient Greek names. Remember that Greek feminine names can end in –ω.

ARTICLE      GREEK NAME  PRONUNCIATION          ENGLISH NAME

o                      Αχιλλέ-ας                   ahiLEas                     Achilles

ο                      Οδυσσέ-ας                odiSEas                     Odysseus

ο                      Πλάτων-ας                 PLAtonas                  Plato

ο                      Όμηρ-ος                     Omiros                       Homer

ο                      Σωκράτ-ης                 soCRAtis                   Socrates

ο                      Αριστοτέλ-ης             aristoTElis                 Aristotle

ο                      Περικλ-ής                   periKLEES                Pericles

η                      Πανδώρ-α                  panDOra                    Pandora

η                      Κλυταιμνήστρ-α        kliteMNEEstra           Clytemnestra

η                      Αντιγόν-η                   antiYOni                    Antigone

η                      Πηνελόπ-η                 pineLOpi                    Penelope

η                      Σαπφ-ώ                      sapFO                        Sappho

η                      Καλυψ-ώ                    kaliPSO                     Calypso

 

EXERCISE

Separate the stem from the ending in the below Greek names and add the correct article.

 

ARTICLE       NAME            PRONUNCIATION      STEM-ENDING

Μαρία             maREEa

Ελένη             eLEni

Δημήτρης       diMEEtris

Γιώργος         yiOrgos

Πέτρος           PEtros

Κατερίνα        kateREEna

Χρήστος         HREEstos

Βασίλης         vaSEElis

Σταύρος         STAvros

Νίκη                NEEki

Σπύρος          SPEEros

Αντώνης        aNTOnis

Κώστας          KOstas

Γιάννης          yiAnis

Αγγελική        ageliKEE

Βάσω             VAso

Βασιλική        vasiliKEE

 

PRONUNCIATION KEY

i (idiom), ee (needle), e (energy), o (organism), oo (boot), y (yes), h (helium), th (theory), d (the). The capitalized syllables are accented.

 

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