Quanti proiettili riesce a sparare una mitragliatrice?

English Translation

How many bullets can a machine gun shoot?

Intrigued by the “trice” ending in “mitragliatrice” I found out that the “mitragliatore” also exists. “Trice” and “tore” endings like “attrice” and “attore” for the machine gun? How can you tell the difference? Which one is which?
( Sorry if I questionably formulated my question)


I think it’s just because “machine gun” is feminine in Italian, so my Collins tells me;-)


the suffixes -tore -trice are used to indicate people or things that do some kind of action into a noun or adjective.

So from “atto” → “attore” and “attrice”, from “dirigere”, “direttore” and “direttrice”, from “mitragliare” “mitragliatore” or “mitragliatrice”. English has words, like “actor” and “actress” that use the same pattern, though in Italian there are many more, and occasionalyy new words may arise using the same pattern.

As a name, I think “mitragliatrice” is used, but you can find also “fucile mitragliatore” in more technical context.

I don’t think you can do anything else than memorize the fact that some words have a feminine and others have a masculine gender.


Thanks for the answer @mike-lima . I tried to figure out why the -tore and the -trice were given to the nouns and adjectives describing inanimate objects. I think it is because I presumed that those suffixes are used for the living objects only. Are there more examples of the inanimate objects with those suffixes?


I think there are a few, although the suffix (as the masculine equivalent) are more commonly used to indicate people.

For example:
“calcolatrice” → calculator
“fotocopiatrice” → photocopier
“falciatrice” → mower
“lavatrice” → washing machine
“pinzatrice” → stapler

I think the feminine gender is used because it applies to the unspoken “macchina” that would precede it.


Thanks again. Funny thing, the “lavatrice” and “calcolatrice” I already knew, but only that pair of “mitragliatrice” with “mitragliatore” together provoked some hilarious reaction in my head.


The italian word- like those in many other languages - is obviously derived from the first french machine gun “Mitrailleuse”.
I don’t know French or Dutch, but it seems there is also a “gender discrepancy” in these two languages using this word (with the Belgians in the middle). See Mitrailleuse - Wikipedia
Maybe somebody with knowledge of French and Dutch can comment.


Interesting, I hadn’t given it much thought for Dutch (especially since we’ve somewhat done away with genders, distinguishing just between gendered nouns (be the masculine or feminine - both use the same definite article “de”, and follow the same corresponding grammar rules) and neuter nouns (using the article “het”).

But indeed, the following seems to be correct:

In Dutch as spoken in the Netherlands, the word mitrailleur is widely used as a synonym for machinegeweer (machine gun). Obviously, this word is derived from the original mitrailleuse by changing the gender of the French word. In Dutch-speaking parts of Belgium, however, the word mitrailleur is rarely used, largely because it is regarded as poor French.

We also call the device for shifting gears on a bicycle a “derailleur”, so that would again originally have been / be masculine, but where they would place a baby that’s been born too prematurely in the hospital would be called a “couveuse”, thus feminine - all still derived from French and I have no knowledge of French at all, so no idea if we’ve done any gender swapping with those.

Wiktionary doesn’t reference it coming from French though, it states that it comes form the verb (which probably still came form French) + the masculine ending “-eur”, I guess the Dutch didn’t associate it with the (feminine) machine doing the action perhaps? (“machine” is still feminine in Dutch too - I didn’t know that either, learning so much these days! I thought perhaps it was one of those where the gender is different between languages, like I believe the gender of perhaps the moon is between possibly Spanish and Italian?)