Anglicized Latin Plural Forms And Those That Survived Their Singular Forms Respectively


Our topic for this episode is a bit different from the ones we usually exscind; nevertheless, their evolving forms can potentially cause confusion to both non-native and native English speakers. It was a suggestion from one of my colleagues who has been hooked into the series.

The most important thing that we should know about Latin nouns is they are subject to vicissitude. It means they have the privilege to evolve from time to time. “The distinctions between Latin singulars and plurals is still observed for some English words in some contexts–scientific or academic–but for the most part, either the singular or the plural Latin form, depending upon which sounds less English, tends to be dropped” (dailywritingtips.com).

To date, here are the Latin plural forms that have been anglicized (i.e., accepted in standard usage) per the information I got from dailywritingtips.com as of last year:

1. data/datum

Although the singular form datum is correct, it has long been rejected by most English speakers as not sounding right. Hence, data is now used as either singular or plural. (When the study of Latin was standard in the curriculum of English- speaking children, no one thought twice about using datum as the singular form of data. Now that Latin is a rarity in American education, datum sounds foreign and has been abandoned in general usage.)

2. appendix/appendices

The Latin plural is still in use, but one also hears appendixes (√).

3.formula/formulae

The Latin plural persists in scientific contexts, but one often hears formulas (√).

4. encyclopedia/encyclopediae

The English plural encyclopedias (√) is more common than the Latin.

5. index/indices

The Latin plural is used in academic contexts, but one commonly hears indexes (√).

6. agendum/agenda

Here, the singular form has dropped out and people speak of both an agenda and agendas (√).

7. memorandum/memoranda

Both of these forms are still in use, but I’ve heard memorandums or memos (√).

8. cactus/cacti

Some people still use the Latin plural, but one hears cactuses (√).

9. fungus/fungi

Both forms are in use, but one also hears funguses (√).

10. hippopotamus/hippopotami

Since most people now call them hippos (√), the Latin plural is not much in use. The plural hippopotamuses is a mouthful and when used tends to sound humorous.

11. dogma/dogmata

The original plural was dogmata, but dogmas (√) has prevailed. The older plural, however, gives us the adjective dogmatic.

However it may be, put in mind that there were also those that survived their singular and plural forms respectively in standard usage such as axis/axes, crisis/crises, and criterion/criteria. The latter is what we are going to weave into a side dish.

latin plurals

The usage of criteria as singular is painfully common; however, Standard English prohibits such for it is considered grammatically nonstandard. The standard singular form is criterion and the standard plural form is criteria.

Allow me to substantiate the foregoing statements.

First of all, Grammar Nazis at grammarist.com and chronicle.com concur with the inaccurateness of criteria being singular.

Secondly, leading publications in the United States still use criterion for the singular noun meaning a standard by which something can be judged.  Take a look at the following examples taken from well-known publishing companies in the United States:

criterion functions as singular noun

1. Williamson implies that is so, rendering this a meaningless criterion. [Washington Post]

2. Perhaps one such criterion was for mortgages to have a loan-to-value ratio of 100%. [The Atlantic]

3. If comfort were the top criterion for selling womenswear, Jimmy Choo would be out of business. [New York Magazine]

criteria functions as a plural noun

1. We’ll look for help today with today’s screen from Morningstar CPMS, which has set up a conservative screen using seven criteria. [The Globe and Mail]

2. The new criteria have been attacked by many in the industry as being too onerous. [Financial Times]

Lastly, dictionary.com and thefreedictionary.com both say that although criteria is sometimes used as singular, most often in speech and rather infrequently in edited prose, it continues strongly in use as a plural in standard English, with criterion  as the singular.

In the future, if the universe will conspire to make you a host for a competition where you will have to enumerate the judging criteria, I hope you will say “The first criterion for judging is …

Related Posts

Confusing Words: Criteria and Criterion at gingersoftware.com

Criteria vs. Criterion at englishstackexchange.com

Criteria vs. Criterion at forum.wordreference.com

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Anglicized Latin Plural Forms And Those That Survived Their Singular Forms Respectively

  1. I have always thought of criteria as plural, never singular, and it’s because most of the time there are more rules than one single rule – which also sort of explains why we don’t hear criterion that often but it is still a word in the English language. I haven’t heard cactuses before, though. It sounds like a very odd word to me.

    You are right in saying language changes as time goes by. Looking back, it’s always fascinating to see what words we used to speak and don’t speak anymore. Language separates us as generations and people.

    Like

    • Hi, Mabel. Thank you for clarifying that criteria was never singular. The article was inspired by the various talk shows, talent shows, and even pageants (in the Philippines). Many hosts use criteria as singular so the millions of viewers will be led to believe the usage is correct.

      Hopefully, the original beauty of the language will not be obliterated by Jejemon language.

      Liked by 1 person

Feedback is most welcome!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s