Word Count

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What Are the "Criteria" for Plurals from Greek?

It's time once again for the latest in our series of quick tips on usage and style shared by Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl. Here Mignon clarifies how to pluralize some nouns derived from Greek (sometimes by way of Latin).

Criteria comes from Greek, and it is the plural form of the singular word criterion. You have two criteria or one criterion. Here are some other tricky plurals of English words that come from Greek:

Cactus. The plural can be cacti or cactuses. Cactuses is more common in general writing, and cacti is more common in botanical writing.

Octopus. The plural can be octopuses, octopi, or octopodes. I recommend octopuses.

Trauma. The plural can be traumas or traumata. I recommend traumas.

For more on tricky classical plurals, see: "Author Bitten By Multiple Octopuses," "Phoni Latin Plurals," "Trump's 'Apprenti': The Return of the Bogus Latin Plural," and "Between 'Us' and 'I': Getting Stuck on Plurals."


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Mignon Fogarty is better known as Grammar Girl. She is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network, author of Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, and the creator of the iOS game Grammar Pop. She is also the Donald W. Reynolds Chair of Media Entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism and Advanced Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. Click here to read more articles by Mignon Fogarty.

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Comments from our users:

Wednesday October 15th 2014, 1:21 PM
Comment by: Ray S.
Sometimes the two plural forms, classical and modern, have taken on different meanings. To most contemporary readers, stigma means a mark signifying punishment or disgrace, and is generally figurative. So we might say that a politician stuggled to overcome the stigma of his earlier conviction for bribery; here the plural would be stigmas. But to theologians and medievalists, stigma still carries the literal meaning of the wounds of Christ, or similar wounds borne by a saint; here the plural would be the Greek (also Latin?) stigmata.
Thursday October 16th 2014, 3:52 PM
Comment by: Delishea P.
I, thank you all, very much.

Visual Thesaurus has changed my life. Living in a foreign country and speaking a foreign language for more than 16 years had me feeling very insecure about speaking my own native tongue but thanks to you ...!!!
Thursday October 16th 2014, 6:11 PM
Comment by: Tom P (Las Vegas, NV)
Octopuses can also be octopidian, used in biology.

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