Masculine and feminine German words – vocabulary and grammar

german professions masculine and feminine nouns

In German, some nouns that describe humans and animals have both masculine and feminine versions. For most of those nouns, the masculine version is considered the standard version of the noun, while the feminine version can be derived from the masculine one.

Masculine and feminine nouns in German

When describing a person’s profession, you can tell whether the person is male or female by looking at the ending of the noun. The feminine version of a noun is often formed by adding “-in” in the singular and  “-innen” in the plural to the masculine version of the word.

Let’s have a look at an example of a typical German profession to which this rule applies:

der Lehrer

the male teacher

die Lehrerin

the female teacher

Lehrer und Lehrerinnen

male teachers and female teachers

As you can see, the word for a male teacher (“der Lehrer“) changes to the word for a female teacher (“die Lehrerin“) by adding “-in” at the end. For most German professions, especially those ending in “-er“, you can apply this rule.

As you change a noun from its masculine to its feminine version, don’t forget to change the article also! The masculine article “der” is replaced by the feminine article “die“.

Common German professions (masculine and feminine)

Here is a list with 30 common German professions that follow this easy rule:

  • Tischler, Tischlerin (carpenter)
  • Künstler, Künstlerin (artist)
  • Autor, Autorin (author)
  • Apotheker, Apothekerin (pharmacist)
  • Verkäufer, Verkäuferin (salesperson)
  • Friseur, Friseurin (hairdresser)
  • Architekt, Architektin (architect)
  • Briefträger, Briefträgerin (postman)
  • Buchhalter, Buchhalterin (accountant)
  • (Bus-/Taxi-/LKW-)Fahrer, Fahrerin ((bus-/taxi-/truck-)driver)
  • Bäcker, Bäckerin (baker)
  • Assistent, Assistentin (assistant)
  • Dirigent, Dirigentin (conductor)
  • Elektriker, Elektrikerin (electrician)
  • Gärtner, Gärtnerin (gardener)
  • Journalist, Journalistin (journalist)
  • Kassierer, Kassiererin (cashier)
  • Kellner, Kellnerin (waiter, waitress)
  • Metzger, Metzgerin (butcher)
  • Pastor, Pastorin (priest)
  • Politiker, Politikerin (politician)
  • Polizist, Polizistin (policeman, policewoman)
  • Psychiater, Psychiaterin (psychiatrist)
  • Richter, Richterin (judge)
  • Schauspieler, Schauspielerin (actor, actress)
  • Sekretär, Sekretärin (secretary)
  • Sportler, Sportlerin (athlete)
  • Soldat, Soldatin (soldier)
  • Tänzer, Tänzerin (dancer)
  • Vertreter, Vertreterin (agent)

Note: When the male version of a noun ends with an “-e“, this “-e” is usually dropped before adding    “-in” for the female version:

der Dermatologe                   -> die Dermatologin

the male dermatologist         -> the female dermatologist

der Löw                                 -> die Löwin

the lion                                     -> the lioness

German nouns that need special attention

Some German nouns need your special attention when changing them from their masculine to their feminine versions. Those words make some additional changes. You will need to memorize them, as there is no specific rule explaining those changes.

In the following examples, the vowels “a“, “o” and “u” turn into the vowel mutations “ä“, “ö” and “ü when forming the feminine version of the noun:

der Artzt                                    -> die Ärtztin

the male doctor                        -> the female doctor

der Anwalt                                -> die Anwältin

the male lawyer                        ->  the female lawyer

der Koch                                    -> die Köchin

the male cook                           -> the female cook

der Hund                                   -> die Hündin

the male dog                             -> the female dog

If you’re very new to German, you might want to learn more about German vowel mutations (“Umlaute“).

Beware that there is no rule for “a”, “o” and “u” changing into their mutated versions. The following examples show that this is not always the case:

der Pastor                                 -> die Pastorin

the male priest                         -> the female priest

der Chirurg                              -> die Chirurgin

the male surgeon                     -> the female surgeon

der Soldat                                 -> die Soldatin

the male soldier                       -> the female soldier

Exceptions to the rule

There are some male and female versions of words that do not share the same word stem, but are completely different from each other:

der Vater                                  -> die Mutter

the father                                  -> the mother

der Krankenpfleger                 -> die Krankenschwester

the male nurse                        -> the female nurse

der Angestellte                       -> die Angestellte

the male employee                -> the female employee

der Mann                                -> die Frau

the man                                   -> the woman

As you can see from the last example, “man” means “Mann” and “woman” means “Frau“. Accordingly, some nouns add “-mann” or “-frau” as suffixes in order to show whether the noun is masculine or feminine.

der Kaufmann                       -> die Kauffrau

the businessman                   -> the businesswoman

Interestingly, there are some nouns describing professions that only exist either as masculine or feminine version, showing how deep gender stereotypes are rooted in language. For example, the cleaner (“die Putzfrau“) and the garbage collector (“der Müllmann“). Nowadays, many people try to use gender-neutral nouns such as “Putzhilfe” for cleaner or “Müllwerker” for garbage collector.

More about jobs in Germany

Do you want to know more about which professions are well-respected in Germany? It might also be interesting to know which jobs you should pursue in Germany while learning German.

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