My first lesson in Italian was today by someone that is not native Italian; she said that most of the time foreign words, imported words into Italian, are masculine. When I look in the course material it appears that what she said is not fully correct. It is not the general rule.

For a native Italian speaker, what is correct (as the general rule)?

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    So you are asking whether the grammatical gender or foreign words used in Italian are always masculine (maybe with exceptions) or they can be both masculine and feminine?
    – lupalberto
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 20:08
  • Relevant: Constraining Gender Assignment Rules (paper draws most of its examples from loanwords to Italian).
    – iacopo
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 10:22

1 Answer 1


There isn't a general rule. Most of the foreign words have a defined grammatical gender in Italian – although for some of them both are acceptable or their gender is still debated: e.g. font, emoji – but there is not an universal mechanism for its assignment.

According to this post by the Accademia della Crusca, the gender gets assigned most of the time from a hyperonym ("la spider" since spider is one kind of "automobile", which is feminine), or from an Italian term that is or is perceived as the closest translation. However many foreign words don't follow these criteria.

Note that if a noun refers to a person, it will usually take the grammatical gender of whom it refers to.

See also this essay by Treccani.

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    Moreover, for language who also have a masculine and a feminine gender, Italian often takes the original gender. So we have lots and lots of French, Spanish and German feminine loanwords: chance, fondue, toilette, mise, roulette, roulotte, corrida, movida, tequila, paella, Weltanschauung, Realpolitik...
    – DaG
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 9:57
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    That's true, but according to the post by Accademia della Crusca, tequila is an exception to this trend, being masculine in Mexican Spanish. The ending in -a has prevailed and caused a gender swap in the loan process.
    – Nicola Sap
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 10:02

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