When words are borrowed into German, how is it decided what gender that word should be?

I can think of examples with all three genders: der Latte, die Jeans, das Internet.

Are there ever discrepancies in the application of a gender to a word because people in one area have chosen a different gender to people in another area borrowing the same word? If there is, do grammarians and lexicographers etc. establish a standard and have that taught in schools?

  • 2
    Possible duplicate of this question and many others.
    – Gigili
    Jun 10, 2012 at 12:43
  • 2
    The question you've linked to seems to refer to existing German words. With my question, I am specifically interested in assigning gender to words borrowed into German.
    – Contention
    Jun 10, 2012 at 12:49
  • 1
    I don't think so, my answer to that question does answer your question as well. But let's wait for other opinions.
    – Gigili
    Jun 10, 2012 at 12:54
  • "Der Latte" kann man ja nur sagen, wenn man nicht weiß, was "Latte" heißt, und daher glaubt, dass das eine akzeptable Kurzform ist. Als würde man "Der Holz" sagen, wenn man vom Holztisch redet, so als gäbe es nichts anderes aus Holz und Holz auch nicht einfach als solches. Die vorgebliche Weltläufigkeit demaskiert sich hier selbst als Provinzialität. Jun 10, 2012 at 14:38

1 Answer 1


Usually most of the foreigner words in German used to be neutral (as in das Internet – probably the reason is that it was borrowed from English where there is no easy way to say what gender has a noun). die Jeans is a short form of die Jeanshose and it got gender from Hose. You can actually say der Jeans and it would be understand as der Jeansstoff. Now in case of der Latte (like in latte macchiato) the gender comes from Italian language. In a lot of cases work the usual rules like what ends with -a is feminine – coming from old good 1st feminine declination in Latin (however der Orca because of der Schwertwal), the -er or -um would be respectively masculine and neutral (same Latin origin).

Of course, in case of languages, there are exceptions to every rule as usual.

  • Is "die Jeans" not some kind of strange plural form similar to "die Hosen"?
    – 0x6d64
    Jun 10, 2012 at 15:19
  • Well in this case you can't say the difference. Sngl would be die Jeans Hose = die Jeanshose; plural die Jeans Hosen = die Jeanshosen. Unfortunately the short form is only die Jeans.
    – Kris_R
    Jun 10, 2012 at 18:38
  • 1
    I would have thought that in "der Latte" it's because it's "der Kaffee" — after all, it's a special sort of coffee. Also "die Latte" already has another meaning.
    – celtschk
    Jun 12, 2012 at 18:27
  • @Kris_R: You can see the difference in a full sentence: "Die Jeans ist dreckig" vs. "Die Jeans sind dreckig".
    – celtschk
    Jun 12, 2012 at 18:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.