In all languages with genders I know the word for man is masculine, and the word for women is feminine. While this is still technically true for the word мужчина, it is the only Russian masculine word I know that declines like a feminine word ending in "a". Can anyone give a historical reason why this is the case?

  • 1
    here its etymology is being explained, quite vague slovari.ru/default.aspx?s=0&p=5311&0a0=181 Oct 16, 2016 at 18:42
  • Edit: I have specified that мужчина, it is the only Russian masculine word I know that declines like a feminine word ending in "a". Oct 16, 2016 at 20:38
  • 1
    downvoting cause it's a valid though very poor quality question, your assumption is wrong, it's not the only noun.
    – shabunc
    Oct 16, 2016 at 20:47
  • 1
    @shabunc The OP does not say it's the only word, he says it's the only word he knows.
    – Abakan
    Oct 16, 2016 at 21:06
  • 8
    There is a category of masculine nouns ending with -а: "I склонение — имена существительные женского, мужского и общего рода, имеющие в именительном падеже единственного числа окончание -а (-я) (страна, земля, армия, голова, дядя, юноша, Петя, плакса, соня, задира)." As for nouns for family members - папа, батя, дядя. Even diminutive names are full of -a endings: Вова, Миша, Гриша, etc.
    – Artemix
    Oct 17, 2016 at 7:23

5 Answers 5


It doesn't decline like a feminine noun. It declines like a noun of the first declension, which includes both masculine and feminine nouns ending in -а or -я. Examples of first declension masculine nouns are возница, старшина, дядя, папа, юноша.


Not all words in Russian ending with -a are feminine, so the question is quite incorrect. When we use any definition, like "clever", there appears masculine ending -ый, that shows we talk of a masculine: умный мужчина, while it would be -ая for femine: умная женщина. The suffix -ина appears both in feminine and masculine words, masculine words like детина, мужчина were often used in conversational dialect, showing the brutality and big size of the matter :) In many dialects мужчина was used for rustics. Here is some information: http://wordhist.narod.ru/genshina.html

  • 1
    Тут участник попросту путает понятия "женский род" и "первое склонение" - а вы ему рассказываете про диалекты. Зачем вы так? Oct 17, 2016 at 8:17

Because they have the same origin (from abstract words). This word is not a single example of nouns ending with -а belonging to the masculine gender. But it is interesting that it appeared rather late and in Old Russian we had муж(see Фасмер ). I will try to translate the essential part of that interesting article. The word мужчина originated from the noun with generalized meaning мужьщина, formed from the adjective мужьскъ with the suffix -ина; Compare: женщина, деревенщина etc. (Соболевский, Лекции, с. 111). The word came into being not earlier than XV — XVI centuries. It was not mentioned in the book («Материалы для словаря древнерусского языка» И. И. Срезневский.) А. А. Потебня used this word to illustrate the change in the meaning (general--collective --individual ).
Thus, мужьчина meant the quality of the person who was мужьскъ (manly ). (Потебня, Из зап. по русск. грам., 3, с. 33).

«Д. И. Буслаев and А. А. Потебня ...analysed the reasons of transition of general, abstract or collective nouns into those denoting a person (like слуга, служба, простота, старина, мужчина и т. п.) showing how words of common gender (ending with -a) developed (Виноградов. Русск. язык, с. 67).

  • Тут участник попросту путает понятия "женский род" и "первое склонение" - а вы ему рассказываете про этимологию. Зачем вы так? Oct 17, 2016 at 8:17
  • 4
    Не только ему, я считаю, это интересно. Но, очевидно, не всем, простите. Вы как-то узко понимаете цель сайта.
    – V.V.
    Oct 17, 2016 at 8:46

it is the only Russian word I know that declines like a feminine word ending in "a"

Дядя, юноша, мальчишка etc. There are also many words which can be both masculine and feminine, e.g. судья, забияка, сквалыга, размазня and so on.

So the question is ill-formed.

  • 1. Why is it ill-formed? 2. Your "answer" should be a comment.
    – Abakan
    Oct 16, 2016 at 21:07

the suffix -ина doesn't seem native to Russian and 3 East Slavic languages in general, there's really a handful of words formed by it

another masculine word of this pattern is детина, in Ukrainian however дитина is feminine and means quite what the root suggests, a child, and not a big guy

in fact all Ukrainian words suffixed -ина are feminine

  • 1
    If it's not native, where is it from? Church Slavonic? I highly doubt it. Just because it's rare, doesn't mean it's not native. And Ukrainian converting all -ина nouns to feminine is an innovation. It's not at all uncommon for Slavic nouns in "unisex" paradigms to switch gender. For example, тень used to be masculine. Oct 16, 2016 at 21:30
  • the article on etymology i gave a link to above refers to Czech and Polish and i have a vague impression of this being a common pattern in Polish, which i don't speak so i could err, so i made an inference that it might be borrowed, as far as conversion of all -ина words to feminine in Ukrainian being an innovation is concerned, what are the grounds for this claim? and how old is this innovation? Oct 17, 2016 at 15:09
  • @БаянКупи-ка: -ина is East Slavic, its Polish cognate is -izna/-yzna. Compare: мужчина / mężczyzna, вотчина / ojczyzna > отчизна, седина / siwizna etc.
    – Quassnoi
    Oct 19, 2016 at 11:31
  • @Quassnoi i'm still not sure though, could it not be borrowed? Oct 19, 2016 at 19:20
  • @БаянКупи-ка: could not what be borrowed from what?
    – Quassnoi
    Oct 19, 2016 at 21:11

Your Answer

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

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