Is mapa masculine or feminine?


The quick answer to is mapa masculine or feminine is that it is ..... 

 .... masculine!

What, I hear you cry! How can be?

My teacher said that all words ending in -a in Spanish are .... (I can also hear you say!)


Well, most of them are ....

but there are some exceptions, and mapa is one of them.

¡Es la vida! ... as they say!

So it is  .....el mapa....

Well, that is that cleared up then - or is it?

If you wanted the answer to the question is mapa masculine of feminine, you now have it.

El mapa is masculine is Spanish.

However, in the rest of this article you will discover a little more about el mapa  - the whys and the wherefores.

is mapa masculine or feminine

A little more personal background on "mapas" and my fascination with them.

Since I was a kid I have loved maps.

Big maps, small maps, atlases.

You name it - I like anything map.

I can remember a bicycling trip that I did with my father around Belgium when I was in my early teens. I had fallen in love with my map of Belgium and half knew it by heart before we even got there.

Some of the names, even now a good number of years on, have a poetic and romantic (almost exotic feel) feel for me.

... Postraat (or in French Rue de la Poste) in the capital city of Brussels (which could be spelled at least 3 different ways - how cool is that, I remember thinking!)

....Hans sur Lesse

....even the more plain vanilla "Oostende" had a more, shall I say, continental feel.

And, all of this in dank, wet Northern Europe, just around the corner from my home country, England. 

Well, what has this got to do with this article?

Lots and lots.

When you go on holiday to a Spanish speaking country, especially if you are travelling around on your own, you will need a map.

This is where this article comes in!

All nouns in Spanish that end in -a are masculine - true or false?

There could well be discussions along the line of - "well I remember from Spanish in school that all nouns in Spanish ending in -a are feminine".

Or, perhaps the reverse.

.....that there is a vague recall that all of these pesky little Spanish words (are they nouns?) do not always play by the rules.

Well, as we have already found out, this is the case with mapa.

And, as I sit and write this, I am smiling that pehaps you have googled 'is mapa masculine or feminine" and, as a result, are reading this.

¡Gracias, Señor Google!

¡Gracias, señor Google! Yes, if you are reading this, the google gods have been at work!

Now ... where was I? ... perhaps I need a map!

Yes, maps are important for obvious reasons.

But, is it that important to know whether mapa is masculine or feminine? Does the el or the la really make, at the end of the day, any difference at all.

The answer is that it depends where you are coming from.

Communication is all!

Just saying "mapa" on its own with a rising intonation will get you a map. You will have communicated - that is the essential reason for language.

Communication pure and simple.

No el or la. No un or una.

No linguistic nicety or complication.

... but, and perhaps you even predicted the but...

This me, Jane you, Tarzan approach can work at the basic level - of course.

But, how much nicer it is, how much more fulfilling it is, if you make just a little more effort ... coupled with the other all important weapon in the human communication armoury, a smile.

is mapa masculine or feminine

¿Un mapa, por favor?

¿Un mapa, por favor! is the next level up.

How much better is that? But a grammatical nicety has entered into the linguistic fray.

It is un mapa not una mapa.

El (the) - un (a), la (the) - una (a).

Complicated? - well, yes if you are new to all of this, or have vague memories of all of this!

¿Tiene un mapa?

¿Tiene un mapa? (do you have a map?) is the next expression you need to add an increased level of sophistication.

Now we have a verb (tiene), and the correct form un before mapa.

How can you remember all this el / la business?

Here is the unsatisfactory but true answer to this question.

You just do!

As Nike says do it - well, you just do.

You absorb it, and do not think about it. That's essentially what I've done (actually I have revelled in the fact that language does do "stuff" like this - that there is a rule, and then, that rule is broken. Yup - I quite like that!)

Don't question it. Don't wrestle with the "why do they? .... why can't it be simpler and follow the English model?

Just accept it ...and take one more step on the linguistic journey (which, believe you me, is full of twists and turns).

Why this is all so confusing for English speakers

English is fairly straight forward when it comes to nouns. In simple terms, nouns are preceded by the word (the article) - the.

And this is true whether the noun is in the singular (one of something), or the plural (more than one of something).

As an example of this in practice, in English we say:

the map


the maps

Nouns are masculine or feminine - what does that really mean?

This can be easily understood when we are talking about brothers or sisters, mum and dad etc. The noun is clearly masculine or feminine.

But how can a word like map be masculine or feminine?

Well, in English it is neither, the noun map  is neuter. It does not have a gender (i.e. whether it is masculine or feminine), it is neuter (neither masculine or feminine).

This is the crux of the difficulty for English speakers when speaking Spanish (or come to that most other European languages) - this whole masculine feminine thing can be, at least initially, highly confusing.

In Spanish, however, nouns are either masculine or feminine.

So, this concept is easily understood, when we are talking about human beings etc. - that is to say when it is clear to an English speaker, whether the noun or the word is actually (to an English speaker's eyes) masculine or feminine.

But life, unfortunately, becomes a lot more complicated when we are dealing with objects which are not, apparently, masculine or feminine.

The fact is that to a Spanish speaking person a book is masculine (el libro).

... and the fact is that to a Spanish speaking person el mapa is masculine.

... and this, even though el mapa ends in an -a.

Frustrating - yes!

Confusing - possibly so.

Whilst in the next section of this article we go through the reasons why mapa is feminine, the easiest way round the potential area of confusion and difficulty for Spanish language learners is to ...

... accept it

yes, don't question it, or get worried or confused,

... simply accept it.

Languages, like human beings, are different. Nothing more, nothing less.

Just take this whole masculine and feminine thing in your stride.

So, why is "el mapa" masculine?

To answer this question we need to look into where the word el mapa actually came from , before it was fully assimilated into the Spanish language.

The next section answers this question.

Origins of the word "el mapa"

Spanish is a romantic language, that is to say that its origins go back to Latin.

The word for table, or napkin or cloth in Latin was


and that it was (drum roll)


However, the word developed a secondary meaning of map, i.e. a graphical representation of the earth.

And this is where it gets a little bit more complicated for we have a word

..... which was feminine in Latin

and comes via new latin

..... to appear in Spanish as masculine.

Yes, indeed, as el mapa.

Well - stuff changes over time. And this is an example.

For a more detailed explanation, click here:

Examples of the use of "el mapa" in Spanish

Below is a list of examples of the use of "el mapa" in Spanish.

This list is fairly extensive.

Here is the link to for more!

Spanish use of "mapa"

borrar algo del mapa

desaparecer del mapa

mapa de bits

mapa de carreteras

mapa físico

mapa mudo

mapa político

mapa del tiempo

mapa topográfico

mapa del tiempo

mapa geológico

mapa hipsométrico 

mapa meteorológico 

mapa mural 

English translations

to wipe something off the map

to vanish into thin air

bit map

road map

geographic map

blank map

political map

weather map o chart

contour map

weather map

geological map

contour map

weather map

wall map

How can I use this list?

As a suggestion, go through the list, pick out your favourites, and write them down somewhere.

Why not?

...put them on a post-it note?

is mapa masculine or feminine

... start a key vocabulary book?

.... save then in your own personal quizlet (not sure what quizlet is? - click here)?

... you get the idea!

the important thing is that you DO something with the information.

You need to be do something active ...

.... otherwise they will be gone

... like yesterday's twitter post!

Why have I repeated "el mapa" so much?

The key to learning any foreign language is repitition.

After all, it is the way that you learned your own language. As a child, you were continually exposed to, say, English and in this way you slowly but surely absorbed the language.

When you are learning a foreign language, such as Spanish, this constant exposure is not the case, unless you are living in the country.

Since you do not have continuous exposure to the language (click on this link for a blog post on how you can increase your exposure to a foreign language), unnatural repetition of the language is key.

Hence lots of repetition of the word el mapa in this article.

By seeing it, and being alert to the possibility that some words ending in Spanish in -a can be feminine, will much improve your chances of remembering that el mapa is masculine.

Another technique that I have used it in this post is to draw your attention to the el  by using different colours and fonts.

Finally, I would strongly recommend that when you are learning lists of new nouns you learn them with the corresponding el or la. I see lots of material on the internet that does not do this - it is not helpful for the language learner.

Especially for an English speaker where this whole el / la concept is alien. 

You tube video on is "el mapa" masculine or feminine?

Here is a youtube video I have put together on the question is la mano masculine and feminine.

Please click on the link and enjoy!

How do you pronounce "el mapa"?

Please click on the link here, when you can hear how to pronounce la mano.

Click here for more on Spanish words that work like "el mapa"

Are you telling me that there are more words like "el" in the Spanish language?

Well, yes, I suppose, I am!

Click on the link for more of these deceptive and mischievous  rascals and enjoy (if that's the correct word ....!)

Here is a link to Spanish words that end in -ma and are, in fact masculine.


So there you have it.

It's "el mapa"

And, if you have read this page all the way through and clicked on the links ....

The answer to the question is mapa masculine or feminine will be clear.

It is masculine!

One more step along the linguistic journey!

¡Buena suerte! ¡ ... ¡y buen camino!

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Is mapa masculine or feminine?
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Is mapa masculine or feminine?
Well, mapa ends in an -o, so the rules would suggest that it is masculine. However, it is masculine. It is el mapa. This article explains the whys and the wherefores.
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