There may be other examples (and if so, please cite them), but one in particular comes to mind.

In Italian, the word for husband is "marito," and the word for wife is "moglie."

My understanding is that "marito" literally means "married man." So in theory, there should be an equivalent for "marita," a married woman, but that does not appear to be the case.

So does "marito" have connotations of "head of household," or something similar. And if you had a "roles reversed" marriage where the woman was clearly the boss, would anyone call her (informally or slang) a "marita" for emphasis?

Similarly, does the word moglie carry connotations of femininity or subservience? Would anyone refer to the man in the above roles-reversed marriage as a "moglio" (a male "wife" if you will)?

I've tried "looking up" these variations in online dictionaries and come up with blanks, suggesting that they are "uncommon" variations, if indeed they are used at all.

  • 1
    Marito means husband, pretty much in any possible sense. The etymological origin as married man is pretty much only that, etymological, and is not perceived by the average native speakers. I can imagine using the words marita and moglio to do puns and plays on words but little more.
    – Denis Nardin
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 20:15
  • Actually, marito derives from Latin mas, that is, “male”. So, if anything, it would be particularly hard to have an etymologically sound feminine form. Of course, as a (perhaps strained) pun or joke, you may say whatever you desire.
    – DaG
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 21:49
  • 3
    «does the word moglie carry connotations of femininity or subservience?»: Just the question to ask on women's day. :-)
    – DaG
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 21:50

2 Answers 2


The word marito comes from Latin maritus, which in turn is a derivation from mas, maris (that is, male). It cannot be used to denote a generic “married man”.

The word moglie comes from Latin mulier, that is, woman, whether married or not. In Latin the word uxor denoted a married woman. To complicate things, donna (Italian for woman) comes from Latin domina (she who rules or commands, especially in a household).

So, of course moglie carries a connotation of femininity, but not of subservience. One cannot say *​marita except perhaps for getting a comic effect. The adjective maritato (married) can be used both for males and females, but there is ammogliato for denoting a married man.

  • Ok, I may have confused "marito" with "maritato."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 16:52
  • egreg, are you sure that maritato is in use for males? Both my experience (of limited interest) and dictionaries (at least Treccani and Zingarelli) describe its use only in the feminine gender.
    – DaG
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 0:32
  • @DaG I see several instances in Google books; maybe not so modern, but they surely shouldn't allow Treccani to restrict the usage to feminine.
    – egreg
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 9:07
  • Oh, I see, thanks. It sounds very strange to me, for what's worth. I believe that in the modern use it would sound no less strange than *“marita” or *“moglio”.
    – DaG
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 9:24

Humbly trying to give a more general answer, sometimes noun genders are altered for satyrical or emphatic purpose, but this happens very seldom and mainly in trivial or vulgar contexts. Satyrical or comic sketches that use such a trick sound often rather gross and sexist or homophobic.

Nevertheless, we have a lady singer here in Italy that used to refer to herself as a "cantantessa", tweaking the normal "cantante" ("singer" for both the genders) with the feminine ending "-essa" for stressing her gender identity. I'm not aware of other similar cases, though.

Even correct - but rarely used - gender variants ("sindaca" for "lady mayor"; "ministra" for "lady minister") sound rather unusual and often give start to public flames about how gender should be considered to be politically correct when speaking.

  • Apparentemente sindaca è raccomandato dall'accademia della crusca, ma credo che in pratica sia molto più usata la variante sindachessa. Sono completamente d'accordo che la cosa migliore sia usare sindaco indipendentemente dal genere del soggetto.
    – Denis Nardin
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 2:08

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