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I've been told that most recent loanwords from English are masculine (e.g., week-end, show, internet, muffin, software, match, sweepstake, blog): could someone please provide a reputable reference substantiating this claim? In particular, and as an example, is the gender of "facebook" and "bitcoin" masculine? Finally, are there many notable exceptions to the assignment of male gender (such as the word "la star")? Thanks a lot!

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    Facebook is a company name and (I just realized that now) they don't really have genders in French as they are never used with an article. I guess the rare agreements would be masculine though. And un bitcoin is largely predominant, even though the (not quite befitting) underlying noun pièce is feminine. – Stéphane Gimenez Nov 25 '15 at 11:46
  • @StéphaneGimenez “Mon facebook” is still uncommon, but gaining popularity, to mean “my Facebook profile page”. I think it's always masculine. – Gilles Nov 25 '15 at 12:05
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    I tried to find counterexamples and for now I only found words used in both feminine and masculine forms: "battle" and "flashmob". – maxime.bochon Nov 25 '15 at 12:25
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    I just accidentally found that interface is feminine (although, according to Wiktionary, it's often used as a masculine word). – mlj Nov 25 '15 at 19:26
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    Please note week-end, show, muffin, match, and sweepstake are not "most recent"; muffin was in Balzac; Voltaire and Chateaubriand wrote show, many are 100 years old+. Star was attested masc. before fem. Note with a brand like Coca-cola you had hesitations, the feminine (une) worked for some time (Étiemble liked it). Cf. individual entries TLFi. Thanks. – user3177 Nov 25 '15 at 20:48
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I've found a quite comprehensive list on the wiktionnaire https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/Annexe:Mots_fran%C3%A7ais_d%E2%80%99origine_anglaise and it is a fact that nearly all the loanwords from English to French are masculine.
Note that words that are not modified (francisés) seem to all be masculine. There are very few exceptions otherwise and they are often obvious: la/le babysitter, la pompom girl, la miss or with a spelling that make them sound like a French word: la fission (sounds like mission, session, dépression...), une overdose (la dose in French), une motion, la randomisation, la standing ovation (une attention, une émotion...).

@SGimenez mentioned two more exceptions in his comment, which are not included in the rules : la start-up (une société) and la soul (une musique). And I would add la rocking-chair (une chaise) to this list of exception, as well as la star and la battle mentioned earlier.

  • Haven't been through the full list but I noticed overdose which is not so surprisingly feminine given the ending and the gender of dose in French. I also guess that sex-symbol is commonly used with both genders. And soul which is feminine in French because of musique. Also start-up because of société. – Stéphane Gimenez Nov 26 '15 at 13:48
  • merci pour le commentaire: j'ai ajouté vos exceptions. – radouxju Nov 26 '15 at 19:35
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    Je serais curieux de savoir d'où vient le féminin de soul. Les autres musiques sont au masculin (LE rock, LE gospel, LE blues, ...) – radouxju Nov 26 '15 at 19:43
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    sans doute parce que c'est bien de la "soul music" comme on dit de LA pop, parce que music est sous-entendu. Dans LE rock, on ne sous-entend pas music: j'ai jamais entendu "rock music", "blues music" etc. – Arthur Nov 29 '15 at 1:09
  • @Arthur ça se tient, je n'avais pas pensé à la pop. Merci! – radouxju Nov 29 '15 at 19:32
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Reddit features many more posts on this subject, too numerous to be reproduced here, but I just quote a few comments from this chain:


Permanent_throwaway1 25 points 2 years ago

In French if a word is borrowed directly from English (un anglicisme) it will be masculine. If the borrowed word is changed to a frenchified spelling and pronunciation, it could be masculine or feminine based on the spelling or what have you. For example, all words in French that end in -tion, -sion, -ure, and -ité are feminine. La torsion, la structure, la fraternité.

Choosing_is_a_sin Lexicography | Sociolinguistics | French 1 point 2 years ago

I'm going to have to disagree here. There is a strong tendency in French to assign masculine gender to borrowings from languages without gender. With the exception of some well-established anglicisms in Quebec French, the only time we seem to find feminine borrowings is when there is a corresponding native feminine lemma. I can't think of any recent French borrowings that fill a semantic gap (i.e. whose denotatum had no word for it, e.g. le sushi, le zouk) that are feminine.

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