Loan words - singular

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Advice Leaflets

Advice leaflets originally produced for the Study Advice Service in the University of Hull, which holds the copyright:

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This table shows a few of the words that English has taken from other languages that are most often found in the singular. In formal academic English, it is usually seen as correct to use the foreign plural forms. So these are given where we think they may be useful.

Singular Plural Notes
abscissa abscissae OED also records abscissas.
addendum addenda ~ 'the things that should be added'.
alumna alumnae These are the feminine forms, ~ old girl(s).
alumnus alumni These are the masculine forms, ~ old boy(s).
analysis analyses Don't confuse with verb 'to analyse' → analyses (3rd person singular present tense.
auditorium auditoria
appendix appendices Better academic plural than appendixes.
automaton automata OED also records automatons.
axis axes Maths (~ turning point; graph line); History (the Axis = Germany, Italy, Japan in W.W.II).
bacterium bacteria N.B. a single tiny thing is a bacterium.
bureau bureaux Allen (2008) notes that in American English, the commoner plural is bureaus.
cherub cherubim Academic religious contexts. Children are cherubs (figurative use)
compendium compendia OED also records compendiums.
consortium consortia
colloquium colloquia
continuum continua
corpus corpora
crisis crises
criterion criteria
curriculum curricula The adjective is curricular.
dictum dicta
emphasis emphases Don't confuse with the veb to emphasise → emphasises.
erratum errata
focus foci Also focuses; in U.K. often 'irregular' focusses.
forum fora Many people say forums.
fungus fungi Colloquially, sometimes funguses.
ganglion ganglia
genus genera
gymnasium gymnasia (Gymnasiums is also recognized by OED.)
helix helices
hypothesis hypotheses Don't confuse with verb to hypothesise.
incunabulum incunabula
index indices Better academic plural in the sciences than indexes.
locus loci
maximum maxima Note adjective maximal.
medium media
minimum minima Note adjective minimal.
nebula nebulae
opus opera Musical plays use 'the works' (~ all available methods) to move the audience.
persona personae - and personae non gratae.
phenomenon phenomena
postscriptum -scripta Academics may add several post scripta to a letter. Others have postscripts.
quantum quanta OED records quantums.
radius radii
referendum referenda Also referendums.
rostrum rostra rarely rostrums (OED).
seraph seraphim In academic religious studies.
series series Singular and plural are the same.
simulacrum simulacra
species species Singular and plural are the same.
spectrum spectra
stadium stadia Still better in academic English than stadiums, which is the usual colloquial form.
stimulus stimuli
stratum strata
syllabus syllabi Better in academic writing than syllabuses.
synthesis syntheses - and verb to synthesise.
thesis theses
tumulus tumuli Mostly archaeological.
ultimatum ultimata Ultimatums also exists.
vertex vertices
vortex vortices


Some examples of foreign plurals used in academic English

Loan words

Table of common loan words usually taking the plural form