How come the feminine sounding suffix -ista is used for referring jobs such as autista, commercialista, economista, giurista, and apprendista?

I think that when the words for these jobs were originally created, they were predominantly practiced by man. Is it considered a grammatical mistake to use commercialisto, economisto, or giuristo etc when referring to a male practicing that job?

  • 1
    Note that the converse is also true. For example we use presidente etc. even if the president is a woman (currently there's a change in this direction and some people have started to use presidentessa if the president is a woman).
    – Bakuriu
    Dec 22, 2013 at 13:24

1 Answer 1


Not everything that ends with -a is feminine and not everything that ends with -o is masculine, so don't get mislead by that. The suffix -ista is neuter, it's valid for both sexes and this means that, of course, *economisto and *giuristo are not valid words.

The suffix comes from Latin -ista(m), which in turn comes from the Greek -istḗs. It is called agentivo in Italian, and it is used for all types of jobs, some examples are those you listed.

If you can understand some Italian, you could check Suffissi and Nomi denominali in the Treccani site.

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