Here's an example of what I mean. Among my (American) friends, I referred to a certain old, rich, domineering woman as "die Herrin." My understanding is that "Herr" literally means "master," and while it is more "gender appropriate" for men, my friends understood why I used a "feminine" form for this (masterful) woman. Perhaps "Herrin" might best be translated as "female man," or "a woman who wears the pants." (This one does, literally.) Apparently, this particular constuction "works."

I've never used this, but the masculine equivalent might be der Frann (Frau + Mann).

Do native German speakers often construct new words in the above manner by "crossing genders" (in any context)?

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    I am not sure that I understand what exactly you are asking, but regarding Herrin you might in addition to Toscho's answer consult a dictionary.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 21:07
  • @CarstenSchultz: I guess I didn't make clear that I was only using "Herrin" as an example, and that I was wondering if there were many of these constructions, or only the "occasional" one. Apparently it's the latter. So I edited the question for clarity. *"Frann" didn't work.) And I learned something about "neologism (and created a new tag).
    – Tom Au
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 22:37
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    A female man is a "Mannsweib".
    – Em1
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 23:03
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    @Mac Tatsächlich. So stehts im Duden. Habs aber so noch nie gehört. Regionale Aussprache siegt. Also bleibts Mannsweib für mich ;)
    – Em1
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 16:18
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    @Em1 in a compound noun, the last part carries the meaning. Thus Mann(s)weib denominates a manly woman, not a female man! Cf. dict.cc and leo.org Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 17:00

2 Answers 2


Tom, you're actually mixing up two very separate issues:

On the one hand, as Toscho already said, "Herrin" is the perfectly regular formation of a female derivative noun from an originally male noun - just add the suffix -in. (more examples: Autor -> Autorin, Maler -> Malerin, etc.)
I'd like to emphasise that this is a regular formation process that simply generates the female counterpart. It does not result in a (maybe humorous) new word with additional implications. So your backtranslation ("female man", "woman who wears the pants") is not what Germans will understand. (NOTE: One problem with this particular case is that "Herr" is both, the German for "master" and the mode of address for a male person. The above refers to the former. For the latter, there is no understandable way to form a female derivative, since there already is an established female version.)

On the other hand, "Frann" is an portmanteau of two separate nouns. This is great in English, but rarely works well in German - I don't recommend doing this in normal conversation.

So, your referring to this lady as "Herrin" does work, but differently than you intended: You called her the "mistress [of the household]". :)

  • ""Frann" is an portmanteau of two separate nouns. This is great in English" - you were probably referring to the general case, but considering this particular example, I am at a loss how to creat a portmanteau out of man and woman. Word pairs where one word is a prefix or suffix of the other one are rarely suitable for portmanteaus. Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 21:29

Herrin is no neologism. It's a direct translation of mistress (in the master-slave-sense) and meine Herrin is a direct translation of milady.

I have never heard of Frann and probably wouldn't understand it. One would say verweiblichter Mann (and most often mean this derogatorily and sexistically).

Besides these counterarguments, gender neologism do exist in German but are nearly never constructed by merging two words (Frau+MannFrann).

  • What does Frann mean then? For a woman acting like a man one could say (and most often mean it in a defensive negative way) Mannfrau.
    – Toscho
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 15:17

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