Is حَرْب (“war”) masculine or feminine?

Strangely, the word for warحَرْب – is feminine.

Let us first have a look at the regular feminine endings. In Arabi­c, there are 3 different indicators or signals to define a word as feminine.

تاء تَأْنِيث ألِف تَأْنِيث
مَمْدُودة مَقْصُورة
1 ة

2

اء 3 ى or يا
طالِبة صَحْراء كُبْرى, عُلْيا

Notice:

  • The ending اء is also the pattern for adjectives (صِفة) for colours and physical deficiencies in the singular feminine form.
  • The letter ى is the pattern for the feminine form of a com­parative (اِسْم تَفْضِيل). For example: older, smaller.

 

Here are some examples:

desert

صَحْراء

smaller

صُغْرَى

colour red

حَمْرَاء

memory

ذِكْرَى

 

So what about حَرْب?

It doesn’t look feminine – but it is!

Like in other languages there are words that look masculine by shape but are exceptions.

 

Here is a list of common exceptions:

war

حَرْب

fire

نار

sun

شَمْس

land

أَرْض

house

دار

wind

رِيح

soul

نَفْس

cup

كَأْس

well

بِئْر

market

سُوق

paradise

الْفِرْدَوْس

Ghoul; ghost

غُول

Watch out! If you want to add an adjective, you will need the femin­ine form:

central market

سُوق مَرْكَزِيّة

 

Be careful with body parts:

When you have two parts of one (mostly pairs) like: legs (رِجْل), eyes (عَيْن), ears (أُذُن), tooth (سِنّ) or hands (يَد), then these words are also feminine. In contrast, the words for nose (أَنْف), mouth (فَم), etc. are masculine as you only have one!

Some parts of the body can be either masculine or feminine, like: head (رَأْس), liver (كَبِد) or upper arm(عَضُد)

 

Also feminine are:

  • names of newspapers and magazines, for example: al-Ahram (الْأهْرام)
  • names of countries, cities and towns are normally femin­ine, except: Morocco (الْمَغْرِب), Jordan (الأُرْدُن), Lebanon (لُبْنان), Iraq (الْعِراق) and Sudan (السُّدان)

 

Watch out: Some nouns can be treated as either masculine or feminine:

country

بَلَد

sky

سَماء

wine

خَمْر

way

سَبِيل

road

طَرِيق

alley

زُقاق

power

سُلْطان

situation

حال

salt

مِلْح

gold

ذَهَب

hell(fire)

جَحِيم

soul

رُوح