I have known the below cadence for some time as a feminine cadence. Example of a Classical Music style cadence

My (old) books state feminine cadence. I'm totally fine with a new politically correct term but the wikipedia article on cadences doesn't seem to mention it. Even to the point of saying that:

...the terms masculine and feminine were sometimes used to describe rhythmically "strong" or "weak" cadences...

... I consider quite inaccurate: I've always known the term as a feminine cadence. I was expecting a modified term (because the cadence's prominence in Classical music like Haydn and Mozart, being very much part of the style).
Is there a term for the above cadence?

  • 1
    When the second chord is not as strong as the last it is said to be feminine - so I think you have it right.
    – cmp
    Jul 5, 2020 at 7:37
  • 3
    Is it political incorrect to use the terms feminine and masculine? It is still quite normal - statistically - that a woman wants a man who is strong and want to look up to him. Jul 5, 2020 at 16:28
  • 2
    My opinion is: "I don't see it on wikipedia it must have been removed because it's politically incorrect". Looking into it more myself (I might do an answer to this question), the opposite words pairs masculine and feminine do seem to occur with strong and weak. It's giving a presumption that masculine is strong, feminine is weak; men strong, women weak: Which is just not acceptable to use. And it gets worse from music writers saying for e.g. "the more normal masculine" vs "the less normal feminine". I'm not comfortable giving cadences a gender, on reflection.
    – user70304
    Jul 6, 2020 at 0:09
  • 4
    @AlbrechtHügli I know this is not the type of discussion for this site, but you pointed exactly at the problem: it is normal, and the language reinforces that normality, that genders are associated with derogative and hierarchical adjectives. It is certainly the normal and widespread ideas the ones that are difficult to question. Confusing normality with correctness will give you plenty surprises looking back in history
    – hirschme
    Jul 6, 2020 at 14:53

2 Answers 2


Most cadences fall on the strong beat of the bar - generally the first, sometimes the third in 4/4. So a masculine perfect cadence, or iterrupted cadence would do that. In the example above, the end of the cadence lands on a weak part of the bar - the first beat being more of a suspended dominant, with the tonic as root note. Commonly called a feminine perfect cadence.

For those of sensitive nature, it seems there is no alternative term, however, a delayed, or suspended cadence seems to fit the bill - the 'masculine' version being the standard go-to. Suspended would refer to the cadence placing itself rather than the notes which constitute the harmony.

  • Yes I would agree with you at the moment. But I would think there probably will be an overhaul to the naming. It was more that wikipedia didn't show that cadence, and it being so prominent in the Classical era. I like "suspended cadence". I thought "Classical cadence" but might be too general and vague.
    – user70304
    Jul 5, 2020 at 8:39

Wikipedia does have an article on masculine and feminine endings, referring to both music and poetry. It includes the following:

The terms "masculine ending" and "feminine ending" are not based on any cultural concept of "masculinity" or "femininity". Rather, they originate from a grammatical pattern of French, in which words of feminine grammatical gender typically end in a stressless syllable and words of masculine gender end in a stressed syllable.

  • 2
    +1 for a documented answer. But I take issue with Wikipedia's claim that there's no cultural concept involved. The explanation itself begs the obvious question of why, in French, stressed (i.e., "strong") endings are masculine and unstressed (i.e., "weak") endings are feminine.
    – Aaron
    Jul 26, 2022 at 23:57
  • 1
    @Aaron it would be an accident of phonetics. I don't think anyone is claiming that masculine words end in stressed syllables because stressed syllables are seen as strong and therefore masculine. They're saying that grammatically feminine words (e.g. peinture, which has three syllables in classical prosody) are stressed on the next to last syllable, while masculine words, such as chevalet, are stressed on the last syllable. There are many counterexamples, but this may have been seen as the normal state of affairs; Wikipedia cites the OED here but I haven't confirmed the citation.
    – phoog
    Jul 27, 2022 at 11:23
  • @phoog It's not an accident that the language is gendered in the first place. Any terms could have been picked other than "masculine" and "feminine" as descriptors. The fact that those words were chosen as descriptors and applied in a consistent way demonstrates a clear cultural choice, not an accident.
    – Aaron
    Jul 27, 2022 at 16:04
  • @Aaron Indo-European languages have had gender since prehistoric times. Modern French stress has nothing to do with e.g. whatever accidental or non accidental factors led to the fact that -tion forms feminine nouns. These words have different stress in different languages, but they're feminine in all of them. That the patterns associated with feminine and masculine nouns in modern French led to those genders being applied to particular metrical patterns, if that is indeed what happened, has nothing to do with why those patterns are associated with those genders in the first place.
    – phoog
    Jul 27, 2022 at 21:35
  • @phoog That still misses the point: why are they associated with gender at all. Why not call them "dog" and "cat" endings or "type one" and "type two" endings or any other classification. The fact that they are gendered, regardless how far back it goes, is a choice.
    – Aaron
    Jul 27, 2022 at 21:38

Your Answer

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