On the basis of synchronic and diachronic data, we argue that in the human domain German masculine nouns commonly display a “non-male” generic interpretation which we take as evidence for a separation of syntactic and semantic gender: synchronically, we show that agreement differences between masculine and feminine nouns cannot be traced back to their semantic gender since nouns without sex specification (as e.g. feminine Person (person) or masculine Mensch (human being)) behave just as differently as nouns with sex specification. In the diachronic part, we prove that the so-called generic masculine is a stable and well-documented phenomenon in the grammatical system of German at least since the Old High German period. To substantiate this claim, we present numerous historical examples for the generic use of masculine nouns such as Gast (guest), Nachbar (neighbour), and Sünder (sinner). These nouns allow us to look at the particular language use without confounding it with the sociological problem of women’s lack of professional integration in the past.