I have read that in Italian, the words maschio and femmina can be used as adjectives after the names of animals to specify that an animal is male or female, and that these adjectives are invariable in this context, so a singular feminine noun still takes maschio (like la giraffa maschio) and a single masculine noun still takes femmina: Modern Italian Grammar: A Practical Guide,

But maschio and femmina don't seem to always be invariable between singular and plural when used as adjectives: for example, there is a phrase colleghi maschi which Reverso says means "male colleagues".

So I'm confused about what the plural forms are like with animals: should I say le giraffe maschio, le giraffe maschi, or are both used? One source I found gave examples of maschio and femmina with plural animals (Using Italian A Guide to Contemporary Usage, By J. J. Kinder, V. M. Savini, 2004, page 240). But also, when I searched online for "le giraffe maschi", I found many examples; e.g.

Quanto sono alte le giraffe?

Le giraffe maschi possono superare i 5,5 metri (18 piedi) di altezza e le giraffe femmine possono raggiungere circa 4,5 metri (circa 14 piedi).


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    Invariable in gender perhaps, but certainly not in number.
    – Denis Nardin
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 6:10
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    Are you sure, @DenisNardin? Treccani, among other examples, gives lepri maschio (and, for what's worth, it agrees with what I'd have said).
    – DaG
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 7:17
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    Nomi di genere promiscuo. Per precisare il sesso di animali che hanno un’unica forma, maschile o femminile, si può usare: l’apposizione maschio / femmina; un leopardo maschio la zebra maschio o – meglio – l’espressione il maschio / la femmina di, del; il maschio della tigre la femmina di gnu la femmina del leopardo treccani.it/enciclopedia/…
    – Hachi
    Commented May 5, 2021 at 18:12
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    I’d avoid the expression “giraffe maschi” and use the more common “I maschi delle giraffe”.
    – Hachi
    Commented May 5, 2021 at 18:18
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    I agree, @Hachi, but if I were forced to use the former construction I'd say le giraffe maschio, per Treccani (“sempre al masch. anche se riferito a nomi femm., e al sing. anche se riferito a nomi plur.”). Giraffe maschi, the cited website notwithstanding, sound alien to me.
    – DaG
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 8:12

1 Answer 1


I can't tell why but it should be "le giraffe maschio" or il maschio delle giraffe". Same would be "il coccodrillo" > "i coccodrilli femmina". This is what sounds correct, at least.

  • If you "can't tell why", apart from the fact the something "sounds correct", then you are not really answering a question, according to the standards of the community. That kind of comments belongs to... well, comments. ;)
    – secan
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 16:13

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