Is Portuguese a sexist language?

As a native English speaker, one of the things I have found hardest about learning a Latin language like Portuguese is remembering which things are masculine and feminine.

My first question is this: why are some things male and some female? Who decided this was necessary, or a good idea, and who decided which things were masculine and which should be feminine?

As a language that evolved from Latin, I’m sure there must be some logical explanation, I just don’t know what it is.

My conversation with my husband went something like this:

Don’t you think it’s a bit sexist (and pointless!) that some things are masculine and some feminine?

I hadn’t really thought about it.

Is chocolate masculine or feminine in Portuguese?


How about sugar?


Ok. What about urine?

Oh, that’s feminine.

….. You can see where I was going with this.

Food for thought isn’t it!



11 responses to “Is Portuguese a sexist language?

  1. Yeh, it starts with Latin – so all the Romance languages have masculine and feminine. but so do the Germanic, and they have neuter as well … is ‘blog’ masculine? Think so. Thanks for the like!

  2. A felicidade é feminina, a saudade é feminina, a emoção é feminina, a comida é feminina, a dança é feminina, as cores são femininas. Nossa alegria é feminina, nossas manifestações culturais são femininas! No Brasil, embora a língua se pareça machista, nossos princípios são o feminino e nossas mulheres travam uma luta diária por igualdade e reconhecimento! Gostei muito do blog de vocês, sou mineiro (nasci e fui criado em Minas Gerais, amo Belo Horizonte e vivo atualmente em Campinas, SP). Vocês deveriam conhecer outras milhões de maravilhas desse país! Que tal tentar um contato com a cultura afrobrasileira? O Candomblé e a Umbanda são religiões muito ligadas à figura do feminino no país! E hoje é o Dia INternacional da Mulher! Posso indicar alguns textos sobre o assunto para vocês! Me mandem um email Meu nome é Darlon Silva. Prazer 🙂

  3. Yes, portuguese is a sexist language, I joke with this every day at work. For example, If you go in a room with a plenty of girls you say “Good morning girls / Bom dia meninas”, but you need only one boy present to change the sentence to “Good morning boys / Bom dia meninos”. There is no need to say “Good morning girls and boy / Bom dia meninas e menino” but at these feminist days it is increasingly common to use this sentence. If a woman is married you call her “Senhora/Madam”, if she is single you call her “Senhorita/Miss”, there is no need for this with men, a men is always a “Senhor/Sir” rsrsrsrs

  4. Reblogged this on natashatbaker and commented:
    For anyone who speaks or has learned to speak a romance language, in which all words have a gender, I think you will find this blogger´s observation reminiscent of thoughts you may have had about the seemingly illogical and random nature of what is masculine and feminine. This blogger argues that there could be a sexist tint to Portuguese and you could probably develop that point quite a bit if you analyzed elements such as the fact that husband and wife are most often referred to in Brazil as husband and woman (marido e mulher). Or the fact that whenever you have a mixed group of people (even if it´s just 1 man and 100 women), you always take the masculine form (todos estavam vestidos de azul = all of them were wearing blue).

    What I want to know is what words you´ve come across – in any language, not just the romance languages – that has caught your attention because its gender seemed odd.

    Here are some examples from my experience in Portuguese: Why is a vestido (dress) masculine? Why is a camisinha (condom) feminine? Why is a gravata (tie) feminine?

    Another element of having everything gendered is that it can make things clearer – which can work to your benefit or not, depending on the context of the situation. Let´s say your significant other asks who you went out with last night. You could easily say, “A friend of mine who was in town for work,” without revealing the gender of this said friend. In Portuguese, however, unless you outright lie, whether you say amiga or amigo (both “friend” in English) will indicate right away who you were with. The example above about people wearing blue is another example of this “gender clarity” that Portuguese and other languages bring.

    So now it´s your turn reader. Share with us your experiences about how gender plays into a language you speak and what you believe that reveals about the culture in which the language is spoken.

    • Hey thanks for the reblog! You’re delving much deeper into it which is interesting. I really hate it when they say “a mulher dele”!!! I always reply with “a esposa dele?” Lol.

  5. Interesting post. I speak Portuguese, Italian, and French and always found it so strange to learn genders with all the words. Of course it went completely against my strong feminist leanings, which was aggravating, but not much you can do when it all comes from Latin originally (unless all these countries followed Sweden’s lead and invented a new gender-neutral pronoun!).
    What I do find interesting is how a few words change gender depending on the language. For example, “o mar” in Portuguese is “la mer” in French. I wonder how that happened.
    I love languages, and I especially love Portuguese. It’s my absolute favourite and I wish I could speak it every single day. Alas, my husband is Croatian-Canadian and has yet to learn Portuguese, though he says he will someday!

    • Wow, I’d settle for being able to speak just one more language, but three more is impressive! It’s a pity that once you get the hang of the genders in one language, they are not the same for other latin languages. Oh well, if you have any tips for learning languages I’d love to here them. I am just writing a post on that very topic!

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