Death (gender)

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by Setwale_Charm, Mar 8, 2007.

  1. Is Death a he or a she in your language when it is portrayed in a symbolic way, as a personality? Does its gender always correspond with the gender of the actual word: la mort, la muerte etc?
    I am not even sure what its gender is in English but I think, it is masculine.
  2. Vagabond

    Vagabond Senior Member

    In Greek it is ο θάνατος (o thanatos), and it is masculine. In Greek mythology, Thanatos was the twin brother of Hypnos (=sleep) and of course he personified death.
  3. gao_yixing Senior Member

    I think it's....neutral in Chinese.
  4. Abbassupreme

    Abbassupreme Senior Member

    California, U.S.
    United States, English, Persian
    Spanish: la muerte

    Persian: Marg
  5. alisha_miss_world Member

    mauritius, french, english, urdu
    In french it is : " la mort " and it is feminine
  6. OldAvatar Senior Member

    Romanian: moarte

    It's feminine.
  7. Ilmo

    Ilmo Member Emeritus

    In Finnish the words do not have a gender, but the death (kuolema in Finnish) is always described as the "Grim Reaper", that is, an old and skinny man with a scythe on his shoulder.
  8. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    "Grim Reaper" or "Scytheman" is of course a man, but nowadays it would be politically correct to say "Scytheperson" (viikatehenkilö), wouldn't it?
  9. jonquiliser

    jonquiliser Senior Member

    Svediż tal-Finlandja
    In Swedish, the word 'death' is gendered (there is no distinction between masculine and feminine any longer), but when you talk about the person Death, you say 'liemannen' and it's a he. It's a little like the grim reaper in English. 'Lie' means scythe, so he's the man of the scythe.
  10. Tolovaj_Mataj Senior Member

    Ljubljana, SI
    Slovene, Slovenia
    In Slovene: smrt (of feminine gender)

    A personification here is Matilda (a skeleton dressed like a woman) with a scythe on her shoulder.
  11. Krümelmonster Senior Member

    Germany, german
    In German you say "der Tod" (male) and he is portrayed as Grim Reaper, too.
  12. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    No, it varies. Often, the gender isn't even clear...

    Seeing as you refer to "death" as "it", I'd say it's neuter gender.
  13. linguist786 Senior Member

    Blackburn, England
    English, Gujarati & Urdu
    In Urdu/Hindi and Gujarati, the word for death is "maut" (موت/मौत/મૌત) - borrowed from Arabic I guess - and it is feminine.
  14. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    It's feminine.
    Yes, śmierć is always feminie.

  15. daoxunchang Senior Member

    Chinese China
    Hmmm, in Chinese we traditionally do not personify "death", though we of course have our god of death. But now many people would use it personified, hmmm, and I think the pronoun for it in such cases is usually male"他".
  16. irene.acler Senior Member

    Trento - Italy
    Italian: la morte (it is feminine).
  17. This is not quite what I am asking. It is definitely "it" in grammar but in symbolic language it is usually refered to as "He" , I think. It is probably due to it being personified as "the King of Terrors" in some English-speaking traditions.
  18. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    In Dutch, the noun '(de) dood' is grammatically male/female. Our version of the grim reaper is called Pietje de Dood (Pete, male), and not Marieke :).


  19. Chazzwozzer

    Chazzwozzer Senior Member

    Azrail is what people call Death and it is usually considered as male, though not really portrayed or Turkish being a non-sexist language.

    Erlik, however, is sure to be male. Though, not so many modern Turks know about him.
  20. übermönch

    übermönch Senior Member

    Warum wohne ich bloß in so einem KAFF?
    World - 1.German, 2.Russian, 3.English
    The death in Russian, Ukrainian and Polish is Смерть/Smerć - the grammatical gender is female in all three languages and so is the personification - a woman with a scythe. The Polish symbolist Malczewski illustrated the concept quite well - 1, 2. :)
  21. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Nice paintings, but I still prefer Boucq's representation in the comic strips Les Aventures de La Mort et de Lao Tseu, in which 'La Mort' tells us he/she is a hermaphrodite (sic!) ;-). But I guess that has more to do with the fantasy of the author than with the average image of the grim reaper.
    Nevertheless, the promo-talk for the comic books says: "La Mort a-t-elle un sexe? feminin, masculin?"...


  22. Abbassupreme

    Abbassupreme Senior Member

    California, U.S.
    United States, English, Persian
    My apologies. I didn't read the starter of this threat properly. I'm pretty that Iran uses the Islamic name of the angel of death: Ezraa'il.
  23. zúzmara

    zúzmara Member

    Hungary, Hungarian
    In Hungarian: "halál". It doesn't have a gender.
  24. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    In Portuguese: a morte. Feminine.
  25. quesuerte

    quesuerte Senior Member

    Oxford English UK
    I agree that it is masculine in English, looking in an old English dictionary shows that the original word "Deaþ" was masculine.
  26. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    The Arabic word الموت (al-mawt) is masculine (its grammatical gender).
  27. Bienvenidos

    Bienvenidos Senior Member


  28. OK, some people have really grasped what I meant but some did not quite do. This is my fault, I should have probably addressed the thread into the Cultural Points, I was in doubt. What I was asking was not so much what gender this word is grammatically in your language but whether Death is culturally perceived to be a He or a She. So when in symbolic speaking, in fairy tales or archaic language would it be referred to as "He" or as "She", in which gender is it personified (and I believe, it is somehow in most langauges).
  29. Abbassupreme

    Abbassupreme Senior Member

    California, U.S.
    United States, English, Persian
    Oh, and Ezraa'il is the Arabic name for Azrael, the angel of death in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheistic religions, who I'm pretty sure is personified as a guy, though I'd read somewhere that angels aren't supposed to have a gender.

    And, in Persian, there are no gender specific pronouns/words, so death is really simply "marg".
  30. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    I think in many (maybe most) languages the concept of Death equals the gender that is assigned to it. At least that is the case in Portuguese.
  31. Greenvampirekilts

    Greenvampirekilts Member

    Atlanta, GA, USA
    English United States
    I think it is safe to say that in English, figuratively speaking, Death is masculine; I always think of Emily Dickinson's poem:
    " Becuase I could not stop for Death -
    He kindly stopped for me - "
  32. suslik

    suslik Senior Member

    USA, Atlanta
    Estonia, estonian
    In Estonian we don't have masculine or feminine words, death is just: surm
  33. paranoid82

    paranoid82 Member

    In TURKISH : Ölüm. It doesn't have a gender
  34. But does it have an image associated with it?
  35. paranoid82

    paranoid82 Member

    U ask me?
  36. Well, anybody here:)
  37. paranoid82

    paranoid82 Member

    Anyway!:D Death means in turkish ' Ölüm ' That's all;)
  38. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Death only has a gender in languages that have a gender.
    In Germanic languages (German, English, Dutch, etc.) death is masculine. In Romance languages (Italian, Spanish, French, etc.) death is feminine.

    Although death has no gender in genderless languages like Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, its modern representations may be influenced by the masculine gender of English due to the widespread English-related iconography.

  39. Qcumber, read the first post again:) I am asking about literary and mythological perceptions.rather than grammar.
  40. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Nope, as written before, in Dutch the word 'dood' has two genders, masculine and female.


  41. awanzi Senior Member

    Gent - Oost-vlaanderen
    Italy, Italian
    In Italian the word is "la morte", feminine.
    But I'm not sure that "La morte" is a woman... as it's a skeleton in a black dress!
    Anyway in Italian the "neutral" form doesn't exist... (not for Death, not for any other word).
  42. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Perhaps you didn't realize grammatical gender reflects ancient mythological and modern literary perceptions.
  43. doman

    doman Member

    Vietnam, Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)

    Tử Thần / Thần Chết / Dead Deity

    No gender
  44. deine Senior Member

    Lithuania - lithuanian

    death - mirtis

    it's feminine
  45. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    This would strike me as quite odd... Wouldn't this mean that mythology preceedes language? Which is quite contradictory...
    Any which way, what are the arguments to state that grammatical gender reflects mythology? How does Fr. 'la chaise' (f) / Du 'de stoel' (m) fit in this theory?


  46. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Not quite. You asked:

    Not to mention that word genders frequently change with time or dialect. Il mare, o mar, la mer...
  47. Maja

    Maja Senior Member

    Binghamton, NY
    Serbian, Serbia
    Same in Serbian: smrt /смрт (feminine).
  48. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Interesting! maut or mawt الموت in Arabic is a masculine word.
    Interesting too !! :)
    Azrail is the angel of death in Islam. I don't know if Arab Christians use it as well or not.
    So, when we "personify" death, we simply think of the angel of death, Azrail عزرائيل , who takes peoples' souls to heaven where they await the Judgment day يوم الحساب .
    We refer to Azrail, as to all angels, by masculine.
  49. silvester

    silvester Senior Member

    Mexico, spanish
    In Mexico "la muerte" (feminine)
  50. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    What makes it feminine? Its ending? What is the mark of the feminine in Urdu?

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