Blog Excerpts

How Do You Pluralize "Prius"?

At the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, Toyota is taking a poll to determine what the plural of "Prius" should be. It's all part of their "Prius goes plural" ad campaign, as they unveil three new Prius models. The Detroit Free Press consulted with some experts, including Visual Thesaurus editor Ben Zimmer, to get their take on how to pluralize the Latin-sounding car name.

Here's an excerpt from the Free Press article:

A vote for simplicity: Priuses

For Rachel Smydra, a special instructor of English at Oakland University, "Priuses" is what works best. Even though she acknowledged: "You're going to stumble over the words a little bit."

But some Latin scholars are irate -- iratus/irata/iratum, to be precise -- that the authentic answers aren't among Toyota's five options ["Priuses," "Prii," "Prius," "Prien," and "Prium"].

Only two correct answers

The true answer to the Prius plural question is "Priora" or "Priores," according to Nick Young, a Latin and classical studies instructor at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Ben Zimmer, "On Language" columnist for the New York Times, concluded that Priora or Prii (pronounced Pri-EE, not Pri-EYE) is the correct answer. But then he added:

"Either one seems like it's trying to force a Latin plural into that word. We're not speaking Latin. We might as well form the word the way English plurals are formed."

So, is that another vote for Priuses then?

Does it really matter?

People in the trenches -- trenchi? -- don't seem to be stressing out about this debate.

"We usually use Prii when you see more than one," said the Rev. Richard Yeager-Stiver, 33, of Grosse Pointe Woods, who owns a white 2005 Prius. "To me, I don't care what they call it. We're just excited it gets good gas mileage."

You can read the full article here. For further discussion of Prius and its pluralization, check out the discussion by Visual Thesaurus contributor Nancy Friedman on her Fritinancy blog, here and here. And see Jan Freeman's Boston Globe column on the topic from 2007, which Nancy links to.

How would you choose to pluralize "Prius"? Let us know in the comments below!

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