If need be or if needs be

If need be is an idiom which means if the need manifests. It became an idiom when conditional phrases (beginning with if) stopped requiring the subjunctive. Now we say "if it is right", not "if it be right". It is used most often as a modifying phrase and does not require commas unless needed for clarity, which may often be the case. Most dictionaries, if they list it as an idiom at all, list the singular. Therefore, in writing the singular form is used almost 10:1. But if needs be could … [Read more...]

Hope or hopes

Hope can be a verb or a noun. As a verb, it means to desire or believe something to be true or to come to pass. As a noun it is the feeling of desiring or believing something to be true or to come to pass. The noun form may be countable or uncountable. To lose all hope is subtly different than people losing their hopes and dreams. One is the mass idea of losing any chance of hoping, and the other is losing specific hopes that can be listed. To have hope (mass) is different than to have … [Read more...]

Schema or schematic

A schema is a plan or an outline that is also a diagram. It is pronounced (skee ma). The plural may be made by either schemas or schemata. Note, that schemata, while uncommon, is often misused as a singular form, but it is in fact plural. There are many derivatives of schema, including schematic. Schematic, pronounced (skee maa tick), may be used as an adjective or noun. Because schema dates from around 1700 and schematic from the 1930s, our guess is that the noun form of schematic came from … [Read more...]

Passerbys or passersby

A passerby is literally someone who passes by something. Usually it is referenced to people who are walking outside of a store as they go on to somewhere else. This term does not require the use of a hyphen. The correct plural is passersby. Passerbys is an incorrect formation. However, it occurs once out of every 25 times the correct form is used. This popularity has increased dramatically over the last decade. This suggests that people are loosening their idea of a correct form of the … [Read more...]

Reindeer or caribou

A reindeer is a species of deer which live in the northern part of the earth. Caribou is a synonym for reindeer and is especially used for those which live on the North American continent. Reindeer can be found on nearly every northern continent and much further south than the North Pole. In 1823 reindeer were paired with St. Nicholas and with the song about Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, they have been a permanent fixture in the Christmas holiday celebrations in the Western … [Read more...]

Lots of vs a lot of

Both lots and a lot of are nouns for amounts of things or quantifiers. They are used when the amount of something is known to be large, but an exact counting isn't necessary. Both are used in more informal speech and writing. More formal word choice would include many or much.  Side note: A lot of is sometimes spelled alot, which is incorrect. Some say that lots is the plural form of a lot of. While that may have been the case in the beginning, now they are more like synonyms, … [Read more...]

Lifetime or life time

Lifetime is one word which means the total time of a being's life from the time it is born until it dies. It can also be used to mean a really long amount of time. Lifetime can be used as an adjective or noun. Though not listed in the dictionary, when it is a noun the plural is lifetimes. One reason it is not recognized may be the fact that no living thing can have two lifetimes, and when speaking about two person's individual lifetimes, it would be more clear to say lives. However, when … [Read more...]


  An ignoramus is a word for a person without any intelligence, an extremely dumb individual. It is a pejorative term meant to be an insult. The plural is ignoramuses. Some dictionaries list ignorami as a variation of the plural, but this is a backformation by those who suppose since ignoramus comes from Latin that it would have the Latin -i plural. However, in the original Latin, ignoramus was a verb, not a noun, and would still have the -es plural. Originally it was as an … [Read more...]


A calumny is a lie about a person told to ruin their character. It is also the name of the act of lying about someone. It is synonymous with slander. Though when someone is falsely accused of a crime, calumny is a more appropriate word. Its plural is calumnies. It also makes the adjective calumnious, the adverb caluminously, and the verb caluminate. The verb form appears as caluminated and calumniating, and makes the noun calumniation. One can also be a caluminator. Examples The Head of … [Read more...]


News is a mass noun which means information that is just received or significant somehow. It is also an adjective used to describe things and people which find information to share with others. It has no plural form. One could count items of news or news sources, but not news itself. News has a quite few derivatives, such as, newspaper, newscast, newsperson, newsworthy, newshound, newshawk, newsmagazine, newsletter, newsmonger, and the adjective newsless. A newshound or newshawk is a … [Read more...]

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