Irregular Plural Nouns Part Two

The plural forms of most English nouns are made by adding –s to the singular form. “Forms” and “nouns” from the previous sentence are perfect examples. However, many commonly-used English nouns have irregular plural forms. In the previous lesson, we looked at native English words that follow alternate pluralization rules. This time, we’ll turn our attention to words with foreign origins that have retained their plural forms from their original languages.


Plural Forms of Words of Latin Origin

Many modern English words have been borrowed from Latin. Most of these loanwords can be made plural by following either Latin or English pluralization rules:


Singular Latin Plural English Plural
appendix appendices appendixes
curriculum curricula curriculums
formula formulae formulas
index indices indexes
millennium millennia millenniums
referendum referenda referendums
syllabus syllabi syllabuses
terminus termini terminuses
thesaurus thesauri thesauruses
vortex vortices vortexes


A handful of specialized academic, scientific, and technical terms follow Latin pluralization rules only. These include:


Singular Latin Plural
alga algae


larva larvae



Plural forms of Words of Greek Origin

Greek loanwords drop it the –is from the singular and add –es to form the plural:


Singular Plural
analysis analyses
crisis crises
neurosis neuroses



French Loanwords

Words of French origin than end in –eau can usually take either the French ­–x or the English –s:


Singular French Plural English Plural
bureau bureaux bureaus
chateau chateaux Chateaus
flambeau flambeaux flambeaus
gateau gateaux gateaus
plateau plateaux plateaus
portmanteau portmanteaux portmanteaus
tableau tableaux tableaus
trousseau trousseaux trousseaus



Italian Loanwords

With a handful of exceptions, words that have come to English from Italian discard their Italian plurals in favor of English plurals:


Singular English Plural Italian Plural
espressos espressos espresso
fresco fresco(e)s freschi
pizza pizzas pizze


Notes: Some Italian loanwords, such as spaghetti, are derived from the plural forms. Ironically, these words are usually used singularly in English.


The singular paparazzo and plural paparazzi have survived the transition to English intact. These words refer to freelance photographers who chase after celebrities to obtain pictures of them, often without the celebrities’ consent.