Italian Nouns with Irregular Gender Formation

In this blog post, we will demystify Italian nouns with irregular gender formation and help you understand why they don’t follow the usual rules.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Read the explanation to learn more.

First, it’s essential to understand the basic rules of Italian gender.

Most Italian nouns ending in “-o” are masculine, while those ending in “-a” are feminine.

There are some irregular nouns that don’t follow any particular pattern. For example, “uovo” (egg) is masculine, while “mano” (hand) is feminine. It’s important to memorize these nouns individually to avoid making mistakes in your writing and speaking.

Another exception is nouns that end in “-ista.” These nouns can be either masculine or feminine, depending on the gender of the person they are describing. For example, “artista” (artist) is masculine when describing a male artist and feminine when describing a female artist.

In addition to these irregular nouns, there are also some nouns that change gender depending on whether they are singular or plural. For example, “braccio” (arm) is masculine in the singular but feminine in the plural (“braccia”).

To make things even more complicated, there are some nouns that have different meanings depending on their gender. For example, “colonna” can mean “column” (feminine) or “supporter” (masculine).


✳️ Some feminine nouns end in -o


  • la Radio
  • la Mano
  • la Moto
  • l’Auto
  • la Metro

✳️ Some masculine singular nouns end in -a 
(they are of Greek origin and correspond to English nouns ending in -em and -am)


  • il Problema
  • il Programma
  • il Sistema
  • il Poeta
  • il teorema
  • il diagramma

✳️ Some feminine nouns end in -i

  • la crisi
  • la tesi
  • l’analisi
  • l’ipotesi

✳️ Some nouns change completely from masculine to feminine:

maschio femmina

uomo donna

padre made

fratello sorella

marito moglie

toro mucca

montone pecora

✳️ Some nouns, particularly those ending in -nte and -ista, remain the same in the masculine and feminine singular:

nipote nipote

cantante cantante

giornalista giornalista

✳️ In some cases the feminine has a completely different ending:

conte ➔ contessa

leone ➔ leonessa

This group also includes:

masculine nouns ending in -tore, which changes the ending to -trice

attore ➔ attrice

pittore ➔ pittrice

❍ some masculine nouns ending in -re, which have a feminine ending in -ra

signore ➔ signora

infermiere ➔ infermiera

❍ other masculine nouns ending in -re, which have a feminine ending in -ssa dottore ➔ dottoressa

professore ➔ professoressa

✳️ Borrowed Nouns

Some nouns have been borrowed from other languages, primarily English.

They are all treated as masculine nouns.


  • lo sport
  • il tram
  • il computer
  • il tennis
  • l’autobus

10 common words having a different meanings depending on their gender!

 Il tavolo o la tavola?

Il tavolo è un mobile che usiamo in cucina.

  It is a piece of furniture that we use in the kitchen.

La tavola è il tavolo apparecchiato per un pasto oppure un asse di legno di forma rettangolare.

  it is the table set for a meal or a rectangular wooden plank.

 Il pianto o la pianta?

Il pianto è un lamento espresso con lacrime.

  It’s a sob expressed through tears.

La pianta è un organismo vegetale.

  It’s a vegetable organism.

 Il banco o la banca?

La banca è il luogo dove abbiamo il conto corrente.

  is the place where we have the checking account.

Il banco è un mobile, che si trova in un’aula scolastica.

  is a piece of furniture, located in a classroom.

 Il foglio o la foglia?

Il foglio è un pezzo di carta.

  it’s a piece of paper.

La foglia è la parte verde di una pianta.

  it is the green part of a plant.

 Il porto o la porta?

la porta si apre per entrare o uscire da una stanza.

  It opens to enter or exit a room.

il porto  è il posto dove arrivano e partono le navi.

  it is the place where the ships arrive

 Il mento o la menta?

Il mento è una parte del corpo che si trova sotto la bocca.

  it is a part of the body that is located under the mouth.

La menta è un’erba aromatica.

  it is an aromatic herb.

 Il mostro o la mostra?

Il mostro è creatura fantastica di aspetto orribile.

  he is a fantastic creature with a horrible appearance.

La mostra è un’ esposizione di opere artistiche.

  It is an exhibition of artistic works.

 Il suolo o la suola?

La suola è la parte della scarpa che poggia per terra.

  it is part of the shoe that rests on the floor.

 è un terreno.

  it is ground.

 Il politico o la politica?

Il politico è un uomo che si occupa di politica per lavoro.

  he’s a man who deals with politics for work

La politica è l’amministrazione dello Stato.

  It’s the state administration.

 Il costo o la costa?

La costa è quella parte di un territorio che si trova vicina al mare.

  It is that part of a territory that is close to the sea.

Il costo è la somma di denaro che bisogna spendere per comprare qualcosa.

It’s the amount of money you have to spend to buy something.

By memorizing irregular nouns and understanding the nuances of gender formation, you can speak and write Italian with greater confidence and accuracy.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.



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