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Plural of Cello

What Is the Plural of Cello?

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The Quick Answer

The plural of "cello" is "cellos." It is not "celloes" or "celli."
The plural of "cello" is "cellos."
  • Cellos are a critical part of orchestral music. correct tick
  • The back of a cello is traditionally hand-carved, but less expensive cellos are often machine-produced. correct tick
The noun "cello" adheres to the standard rules for forming the plurals of nouns in English (shown in the table below). The plural form "celli" – from the Italian plural "violoncelli" – is an ├╝bercorrect plural. In other words, it is so "correct," it is wrong. (Another example of an ├╝bercorrect term is "between you and I.")

Of course, English has many plural words "borrowed" from other languages (e.g., larvae, cacti), but not every word that clearly comes from a foreign language maintains the foreign plural, and "cello," which derives from the Italian word "violoncello," is a good example of one that does not retain its foreign plural in English.

plural of cello

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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 bus
dress
add es buses
dresses
Nouns ending [consonant] o cello
tomato
add either s or es
(There are no rules for this - you have to know.)
cellos
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 storey (small British flag)
donkey
add s storeys
donkeys
Nouns ending f or fe dwarf
knife
ves and/or s
(There are no rules - you have to know.)
dwarfs
knives
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
Read more about English spelling rules.

Why Is There Confusion over the Plural of Cello?

There are two reasons for the confusion over the plural of "cello":

(1) Cellos or Celloes?

The rule for forming plurals with nouns ending in "o" isn't straightforward. Most nouns will just add an "s." For example:
  • "Solo" becomes "solos."
  • "Piano" becomes "pianos."
Some add "es." For example:
  • "Hero" becomes "heroes."
  • "Torpedo" becomes "torpedoes."
With some words, both versions are accepted. For example:
  • "Buffalo" becomes "buffaloes" or "buffalos."
  • "Halo" becomes "haloes" or "halos."
The plural of "cello" is always "cellos." Unfortunately, there is no clever way of knowing which nouns ending "o" follow which rules. You have to know. (For example, you have to know that "cello" becomes "cellos," but "hero" becomes "heroes.")

(2) Cellos or Celli?

"Cello" is short for "violoncello," which comes from the Italian word "violoncello." In Italian, the plural of "violoncello" is "violoncelli." It does not, however, follow that the plural of "cello" is "celli."

With its plural "cellos," "cello" is one of the borrowed words that follows English pluralization rules.

Beware

Don't Use an Apostrophe to Form a Plural

Adding 's is never an option when forming the plural of a noun. Despite this simple rule, inexperienced writers often feel compelled to add an apostrophe, especially when the noun ends with a vowel (e.g., piano, tomato, emu). For example:
  • Young kangaroo's are called joeys. wrong cross
  • Young kangaroos are called joeys. correct tick
Read more about apostrophes and plurals. Read more about using apostrophes.
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.

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