Gender Both

Summary

A word is classified as “both gender” if it contains both a masculine and a feminine form, or if a single form is masculine in some contexts and feminine in other contexts.

Article

Some words appear in both a masculine and a feminine form. Other words have only one form, but that single form can be either grammatically-masculine or grammatically-feminine. These kinds of words are classified as “gender both”, and they are usually nouns or adjectives. Sometimes the context can determine the gender of a particular instance of a “gender both” noun (see examples below for שֶׁמֶשׁ), but sometimes the context is inconclusive (see example below for נֹגַהּ).

Examples

A single word with both masculine and feminine forms

In the following example, the noun אוֹר (light) is masculine in form and takes grammatically-masculine verbs (יְהִ֣י and וַֽיְהִי).

Example: GEN 1:3
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִ֣י אֹ֑ור וַֽיְהִי־אֹֽור׃
wayyomer ‘elohim yehi ‘owr wayehi-‘owr
And-he-said God there-will-be light and-there-was_light.
God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

In the following example, the noun אוֹרָה (light) is feminine in form and takes a grammatically-feminine verb (הָֽיְתָ֥ה).

Example: EST 8:16
לַיְּהוּדִ֕ים הָֽיְתָ֥ה אֹורָ֖ה
layyehudim hayethah ‘owrah
To-the-Jews there-was light
The Jews had light

A single form that can be either masculine or feminine

In the following example, the noun שֶׁמֶשׁ (sun) is grammatically feminine.

Example: GEN 15:17
וַיְהִ֤י הַשֶּׁ֙מֶשׁ֙ בָּ֔אָה
wayhi hashemesh ba’ah
And-it-happened the-sun it-went
When the sun had gone down

In the following example, the noun שֶׁמֶשׁ (sun) is grammatically masculine.

Example: GEN 19:23
הַשֶּׁ֖מֶשׁ יָצָ֣א עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ
hashemesh yatsa ‘al-ha’arets
The-sun it-went-out over_the-earth
The sun had risen upon the earth

In the following example, the noun נֹגַהּ (brightness) could be either masculine or feminine.

Example: JOL 4:15
וְכוֹכָבִ֖ים אָסְפ֥וּ נָגְהָֽם
 
And-stars they-withdraw their-brightness
the stars keep back their brightness