Addenda vs addendums

An addendum is an additional item, usually to a document or book. Commonly it includes omissions or other missing material from the original. The dictionary lists addenda and addendums as recognized plural forms of this word. Addenda is the original Latin plural. However, addendum has been an established English word since the mid-sixteenth century, and as such has taken on the English plural of addendums. Addendum also has a definition as an Engineering term. It is the radial distance … [Read more...]


A matrix is a surrounding structure in which something develops, an organizational diagram showing line of command, or a mold in which something is cast. In Math it is chart that is treated as one entity and has certain rules. It does not carry the meaning of a maze. The plural can be matrices or matrixes, but the former is vastly preferred. Examples The North Carolina state legislature also mandated that some student-fee revenue must go to an in-house tuition-assistance grant. UNCC … [Read more...]

Cause celebre


A cause celebre is a famous cause or incident that draws great public attention. In French it is spelled célèbre, but the accent marks are usually omitted in English, as shown by the ngram below. It is correct either way. The plural is causes celebres. Examples It is a cause célèbre for campaigners determined to save the French from turning into a nation of Coke-guzzling hamburger munchers. [The telegraph] The strike at Greyhound Recycling is now the most bitter and divisive trade … [Read more...]

Moose vs. mooses

A moose is a large animal with antlers that is found in the northern forests of America, Europe, and Asia. Its plural is moose, not mooses. Though Mooses is a surname. Examples Moose are less likely to move from the road than deer, so drivers are advised to brake when they see a moose in or near the road. Their long legs and top-heavy bodies make moose very dangerous to motorists when struck. [Boston Herald] It was a taste of things to come, as Northern Ontario is famed for its natural … [Read more...]

Teeth vs. teethe

Teeth is the plural of tooth. It's only a noun. Teethe, with that third e, is a verb meaning to grow teeth. It's inflected teething, teethed, and teethes. Teethe is often used metaphorically to mean to pass through early stages of development. This sense is especially common in phrases such as teething problems and teething troubles, referring to early difficulties in a growth or development process. The verb is usually pronounced with a soft th, like the one in breathe and … [Read more...]

Timpanum, timpani, tympanum, tympani

People familiar with music terms use timpanum for a single kettledrum, and timpani (the Latin plural of timpanum) for multiple drums. For all senses of the word unrelated to music (mainly in biology, zoology, and architecture), tympanum and tympani are the preferred spellings. Anyone not comfortable with these Latin-derived terms might understandably use English plural forms instead of the traditional Latin ones. Timpani, for instance, often appears in reference to a single drum, but … [Read more...]

Conches vs. conchs

There are two ways to pronounce the noun conch---which refers to a variety of sea mollusks and their large shells---and how you pronounce it determines its plural. The more common pronunciation is with a hard k sound at the end, so that the word rhymes with honk. For this pronunciation, the plural is conchs. The other pronunciation is with a ch sound at the end, so that it rhymes with launch (in U.S. pronunciation, at least). The plural for this pronunciation is conches. The word exists in … [Read more...]


An oxymoron is a literary or rhetorical device in which two contradictory terms are used together for emphasis or poetic effect or to arrive at a unique meaning. A few of the most commonly cited ones are deafening silence, living dead, open secret, and controlled chaos. The word came to English via Latin from Greek, where it came from an adjective meaning pointedly foolish. English speakers are free to pluralize oxymoron in the Latin manner---oxymora---and some do, but the word has been in … [Read more...]

Last names (plurals and possessives)

Names are nouns, and they are made plural and possessive like other regular nouns. For instance, four men named John are four Johns, and the hats the Johns are wearing are the four Johns' hats. This is simple enough, yet when it comes to last names, there are several common errors that many people make. Plural last names Making a last name plural should never involve an apostrophe. The members of the Johnson and Smith families, for instance, are the Johnsons and the Smiths, not the Johnson's … [Read more...]

Calves vs. calfs

Calves is the standard plural of calf in all its senses. Two young cows are calves, and the back portions of your lower legs are also calves. Calfs has never been a widely accepted form, and some might consider it incorrect. Calf, incidentally, only works as a noun. The verb meaning to birth a calf is calve. The verb's participles are calved and calving. It also has a secondary sense: to break off a mass at the edge (of an iceberg or glacier).  Examples He would help feed chickens — 135,000 … [Read more...]

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