Spanish Nouns with Different Meanings in Different Genders

One of the first things you learn about Spanish is that nouns have gender, like how la mesa (the table) is feminine, and el plato (the plate) is masculine. The idea that non-living things like objects, places, and feelings, can have a gender usually seems a little weird to native English speakers. Well, it gets weirder still…

The amusing gender of spanish nouns

Some special words can be either masculine or feminine, and have a totally different meaning for each gender. I’m not just talking about the difference between a male cat (el gato) and a female cat (la gata), oh no – I mean completely different meanings.

I have made a list of these special words below:







El capital

El capital de esa empresa es muy elevado.

The capital in that company is very high

Capital as in wealth or assets.



La capital

La capital de Perú es Lima

The capital of Peru is Lima

Capital of a country, province, state, or region.


El cólera

El cólera es una enfermedad infecciosa.

Cholera, the disease.


La cólera

La cara de Inés estaba llena de cólera.

Inés’ face was full of anger.

Rage, anger. (Usually, you have to determine this from the context, as it is unusual to see it with a determinant to indicate that it’s feminine).


El coma

El coma de Antonio duró dos meses.

Antonio’s coma lasted two months.



La coma

La coma es un signo ortográfico.

The comma is a diacritic mark.



El cometa

El cometa Halley fue descubierto por Edmund Halley.

Halley’s comet was discovered by Edmund Halley.



La cometa

Vamos a volar una cometa.

Let’s go fly a kite.



El corte

Tu corte de pelo es muy moderno.

Your haircut is very modern.

Cut (haircut, an injury, the cut of clothes in tailoring, a power cut, a cutback).


La corte

El rey llegó con toda su maravillosa corte.

The King arrived with all his wonderful court.

The king’s court; and the residence of a king.


El cura

El cura empezará la misa en cinco minutos.

The priest Will start the mass in five minutes.

An informal word for a priest.


La cura

La cura para el cáncer aún no ha sido descubierta.

The cure for cancer has not been discovered yet.

Cure (e.g. for an illness), or medical care.


El doblez

La falda tiene un agujero justo en el doblez de abajo.

The skirt has a hole right in the fold below.

Fold, crease, wrinkle in things.


La doblez

Ana siempre había sido una persona sincera, sin ninguna doblez.

Ana had always been an honest person, with no duplicity.

Duplicity, two-facedness.


El disco

Coldplay siempre vende muchos discos.

Coldplay always sells a lot of albums.

Record (music), or computer disc.


La disco

No me gustaban las discos cuando era adolescente.

I did not like nightclubs when I was a teenager.

Short form of la discoteca (nightclub).


El editorial

El editorial de hoy es sobre terrorismo.

Today’s leading article is about terrorism.

Leading article in a newspaper.


La editorial

Esa editorial publica libros para aprender español.

That publishing house publishes books for learning Spanish.

Publisher, publishing house.


El frente

En la televisión dicen que un frente frío llegará al sur este fin de semana.

They say n TV that a cold front will arrive in the south this weekend.

Front (in weather or war terminology).


La frente

Lucas tiene mucha frente.

Lucas has too much forehead.



El guía

Juan es el guía turística del pueblo.

Juan is the tourist guide of the town.

A guide person.


La guía

Leí en la guía que hay un castillo muy bonito en esta ciudad.

I read in the guide that there is a very beautiful castle in this city.

A female guide person, but also a guide book.


Los lentes

Andrés llevaba unos lentes enormes.

Andrea was wearing an enormous pair of glasses.

Glasses in some Latin-American countries. Always in the plural.


La lente

Las lentes son más cómodas que los lentes.

The lenses are more comfortable than the glasses.

Lens, for an eye or for a camera. It can be used in singular or plural.


El margen

Es importante conservar los cuatro márgenes al escribir.

It is important to keep the four margins while writing.

Margin (on a page).


La margen

Íbamos caminando por la margen derecha del río.

We were walking along the right bank of the river.

Bank at the edge of a river. Though sometimes the masculine form is used with this same meaning.


El orden

El orden y la disciplina son importantes.

Order and discipline are important.

Order, as in arrangement according to a pattern or method.


La orden

El soldado recibió la orden.

The solider received the command.

A command.


El papa

El papa actual es el Papa Francisco.

The current Pope is Pope Frances.



La papa

Me gustan las papas fritas. (Could be patatas fritas too.).

I like chips.

Potato, so be careful with what you say if you like “las papas fritas” (fried potatoes, French fries, or chips) depending on what country you are from), just in case you accidentally fry the Pope! Always feminine!


El parte

Antes de una excursión deberías mirar el parte meteorológico para ese día.

Before an excursion, you should look at the weather report for that day.

Report or bulletin.


La parte

La primera parte de la película fue divertida, pero la segunda parte no.

The first part of the movie was fun, but the second part was not.

Part, fraction.


El pendiente

Esos pendientes rojos son muy bonitos.

Those red earrings are very beautiful.

Earring in Spain.


La pendiente

La calle tiene demasiada pendiente para hacerla en bicicleta.

The Street has too much slope to ride it by bicycle.

Slope, gradient.


El pez

El pez nadaba felizmente en el océano.

The fish was happily swimming in the ocean.

Fish, but be careful because it refers to a live fish. If it’s dead it’s called pescado.


La pez

La pez es de color oscuro.

Pitch has a dark colour.

Pitch, tar.


El policía

El policía pasó corriendo por esa calle.

The male police officer came past running down that street.

Male police officer.


La policía

La policía es una de las fuerzas de seguridad del estado.

The police are one of the state security forces.

It can be a female police officer, but it also means the police in a general sense, including everyone who works as a police officer.


El radio

El símbolo del elemento radio es RA.

The symbol of radium is Ra.

It has three different meanings: the radius of a circle; the radius bone; and also radium the chemical element.


La radio

Me gusta escuchar música en la radio.

I like to listen to music on the radio.

Radio, as in the device to listen to radio channels; also the device for radio communication (radio control in Spanish).


El rata

Mi hermano es un poco rata.

My brother is a bit stingy.

Miserly, stingy. This example is a bit different because it’s using rata as an adjective, not a noun. Rata can be used to describe both male and female people.


La rata

No me gustan las ratas.

I do not like rats.

Only in feminine, rat. If it’s a male rat, we can add an adjective after to indicate the gender (“la rata macho”), but we would never say “el rata” or “el rato” for a male rat.


El terminal

En esa tienda puedes encontrar terminales baratos.

In that store, you can find cheap mobiles.

Cellphone, mobile.


La terminal

La terminal 4 del aeropuerto de Madrid es la más nueva.

Terminal 4 in Madrid airport is the newest.

Terminal, terminus, station.

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