natural gender


plural natural genders
: a system used in some languages in which some words that identify individuals (such as the English nouns aunt and uncle or the English pronouns he and she) correspond to the individual's sex but in which most nouns do not have a grammatical gender (see gender entry 1 sense 1a)
The type of biological distinction used in English is quite different from the more common distinction found in languages that use grammatical gender. Whereas natural gender is based on sex (male and female), grammatical gender is based on the type of noun (masculine or feminine) and is not tied to sex. In this latter sense, nouns are classified according to their gender class and, typically, articles and adjectives have different forms to "agree with" the gender of the noun.George Yule
If grammatical gender had survived in English the continued use of his when referring to neuter nouns would probably never have seemed strange. But when, with the substitution of natural gender, meaning came to be the determining factor in the gender of nouns, and all lifeless objects were thought of as neuter, the situation was somewhat different.Thomas Cable and Albert C. Baugh

Word History

First Known Use

1780, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of natural gender was in 1780

Dictionary Entries Near natural gender

Cite this Entry

“Natural gender.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

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