Map of the gender of the word "art" in several European languages
Is art masculine or feminine?

The gender of a word in linguistics is a category that divides the nouns into different classes. It can range from two to four, or even twenty. On the map, we observe the distribution of the grammatical gender of the word “art” in several languages.

Blue corresponds to languages where art is masculine. It is the case of French, art. But in Italian, pink block, the word is femenine, arte. This means in each language the word art would go with a different set of articles, adjectives, or even verbs. They call this “agreement”. For example, in German, Kunst goes with the article die (not with das nor der, unless it is a different case). The same applies to adjectives: We can say “Abstrakte Kunst” but not “Abstrakt”. In English, which lacks gender distinction, this agreement still happens in a few situations: “She is an actress” but not “He is an actress”. Thus it belongs to the grey group.

Beyond binary

The green group is languages where art belongs to “neuter”, in these languages, there is a third group like in Czech. In these cases, the word art is part also of the group of abstract noun class.

But in some cases, neuter is the second group, like in Swedish, where masculine and feminine are basically the same, thus it is called common gender. On the map, purple.


There are two cases that pop out on the map. Spanish “arte” is a masculine word, like in French, so it goes with the article “el” or “un” and with masculine adjectives: “el arte moderno, un arte genuino” But unlike other words, in plural, is femenine: “Las artes plásticas, unas artes oscuras”. In Catalan, it happens the same.

The case of the Norwegian language is quite different though. It has three genders and uses the word Kunst. Just like in German. The peculiarity is that it has two forms of written Norwegian, the bookish, Bokmål, and the new, Nynorsk. The first one is masculine but in the second it can be feminine as well.

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