Plural of Syllabus

The Quick Answer

The plural of "syllabus" is "syllabi" or "syllabuses."

The Plural of syllabus

The plural of "syllabus" is "syllabi" or "syllabuses."
  • Syllabuses for examinations can change on almost a yearly basis. correct tick
  • College syllabi are handed out at the beginning of a course for students. correct tick
The noun "syllabus" has a Latin root, which is the derivation of the plural "syllabi." "Syllabuses" (which adheres to the standard rules for forming plurals) is equally as acceptable.

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The Standard Rules for Forming the Plurals

The table below shows the standard rules for forming the plurals of nouns in English.
Type Example of Type Forming the Plural Plural
Most Nouns lamp
scythe
add s lamps
scythes
Noun Ending s, sh, ch, x or z syllabus
dress
add es syllabuses
dresses
Nouns ending [consonant] o hero
zero
tomato
add either s or es
(There are no rules for this - you have to know.)
heroes
zeros
tomatoes
Nouns ending [vowel] o patio
ratio
add s patios
ratios
Nouns ending [consonant] y story
penny
change the y to an i and add es stories
pennies
Nouns ending [vowel] y donkey
chimney
add s donkeys
chimneys
Nouns ending f or fe dwarf
hoof
ves and/or s
(There are no rules - you have to know.)
dwarfs
hooves or hoofs
Exceptions man
louse
some nouns undergo a vowel or letters change men
lice
More exceptions salmon
sheep
some nouns do not change at all salmon
sheep
Foreign rulings syllabus
medium
some nouns adopt foreign rulings syllabi
media
Read more about English spelling rules.

Why Is There Confusion over the Plural of Syllabus?

Confusion arises over the plural of "syllabus" because its original plural form ("syllabi") derives from Latin, and native English speakers are drawn to "syllabuses," which adheres to the standard ruling for forming plurals.

Both "syllabuses" and "syllabi" are acceptable. Of note, "syllabi" is becoming the more common plural. (See the evidence in Google's Ngram Viewer.)
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.