In English, a feminine noun always belongs to the personal gender, never the impersonal gender, and within the personal gender contrasts with masculine. Most people who are referred to using feminine nouns are biologically female, though many are not. Feminine nouns are also often used to refer to female animals. The feminine pronouns in English are “she,” "her,” "hers" and "herself" and all these third person singular, there are no equivalents for the third person plural or other grammatical persons, rather common gender pronouns are used instead.
A good test for a feminine noun is to consider which pronoun can be used to refer to it when restricted to third person singular pronouns; if only “she" (etc) can be used and "he" (etc) can’t be used, then as a consequence of gender concord, the noun is feminine. However, if either "he" or “she" can be used the noun is dual gender, and if "he,” “she" or "it" can be used then the noun is common gender.
Examples of feminine nouns in English[edit | edit source]
|Personal names||Ruth, Samantha, Victoria, etc, etc, etc|
|Nouns for describing people||girl, lady, woman|
|personal titles||Miss, Mrs, Ms.|
|Noun phrase with a feminine noun modifier or adjective||“girl guide,” "woman doctor,” “female student,” etc|
|Family-related nouns||aunt, daughter, divorcée, fiancée, grandma, grandmother, ma, mam, mammy, mother, mom, mommy, mum, mummy, nanna, niece, sister, spinster, widow, wife.|
|Demonyms||Dutchwoman, Englishwoman, Filipina, Frenchwoman, Irishwoman, Latina, Manxwoman, Scotswoman, Welshwoman, Yorkshirewoman|
|Gendered job titles||actress, seamstress, waitress, compounds with -woman (e.g. policewoman, saleswoman, etc)|
|Aristocratic ranks||baroness, countess, duchess, empress, lady, marchioness, princess, queen, viscountess|
|Female animals||bitch, cow, dam, doe, ewe, filly, hen, leopardess, lioness, mare, pen, queen, sow, tigress, vixen|
|Latin loans||alumna(e), professor(s) emerita(e),|
Gender-neutral language[edit | edit source]
Gender-neutral language, which uses the common gender to cover feminine, masculine and non-binary is preferred by many especially in formal registers of contemporary English. This is less common however in historical English.
Gender concord[edit | edit source]
Unlike many other languages, English does not generally have gender concord whereby other words must agree with the gender of the noun. English does not generally therefore have gendered adjectives. A notable exception is the French loanword née, literally meaning “born" but used to denote a name given at birth, which has feminine form née and the masculine form né. The masculine form is much less common than the feminine form due to the traditional Western custom of a woman taking her husband’s surname upon marriage.