dan_rach dan_rach at
Wed May 8 10:55:07 EDT 2002

If you have a quick look through Aristophanes' "Clouds", you will see how
the Greeks themselves sometimes got confused as to why some words were 'boy
words' and some were 'girl words'. Socrates has all sorts of fun trying to
explain it....

Dan King

> You might almost do better to think of "masculine," "feminine" and
> genders in Greek as "A," "B," and "C" genders--if the adjectives
> "masculine," "feminine" and "neuter" are going to confuse you. Gender is
> not a matter of biology or cultural roles but rather of grammatical
> agreement: "masculine" nouns require "masculine" forms of the article and
> of adjectives and have to be represented (normally) by masculine
> pronouns--and similarly "feminine" and "neuter" nouns reqire "feminine"
> "neuter" forms respectively.
> While masculine and feminine human persons and their names are almost
> always distinctly in the "masculine" and "feminine" gender, yet there are
> striking exceptions: TEKNON and PAIDION are neuter nouns, each meaning
> "child," KORASION is a noun for "little girl" in the Greek NT, and it too
> is neuter.
> But there are far more nouns in Greek that don't refer to male or female
> human persons at all--and they all fall into one of the three gender
> categories and require adjectives, articles, and pronouns referring to
> to be in their own appropriate gender. QALASSA ("sea") is feminine, while
> PONTOS (also meaning "sea") is masculine: that doesnt mean that THE SEA
> thought of by the Greeks either as a male or as a female.
> So: when nouns and names refer to human persons (or animals) they do tend
> to take the gender corresponding to the sexual gender of the person (or
> animal)--but they don't always do that without exception, and nouns and
> names referring to inanimate things do all have masculine, feminine, or
> neuter gender--as the case may be--but should NOT be thought of as "male,"
> "female," or "sexless."
> --

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