Old 01-21-2003, 12:45 PM
lindsay.reid lindsay.reid is offline
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 75
plural of curriculum

I am wondering about the plural of "curriculum" in English. I had always assumed that the English word "curriculum" used the Latin plural, "curricula". However, I said "curricula" the other day, and one of my friends started laughing. He insisted that "curricula" sounds funny, and the plural in English is "curriculums". I looked it up at dictionary.com, and both plural forms are listed. However, I'm wondering if they are both equally valid. Is one form is used more often than the other? For example, is "curriculums" replacing "curricula" as the proper plural form?
Old 01-21-2003, 12:55 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
Voodoo Adult (Slight Return)
Charter Member
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Charlotte, NC, USA
Posts: 24,911
Most foreign words go through a period of normalization. Curriculum is finally going through this period. Like it or not, irregular verbs and nouns (particularly words borrowed from other languages) get changed to regular verbs and nouns over time, particularly if they are not part of the core vocabulary that we use every day. This is why you (probably) accept agendas as a plural for agenda, even though agenda technically is already plural. In time, only trivia experts will know that curricula is an acceptable plural, the way only trivia experts know that kine is an acceptable plural of cow.

Hope this helps.
Did you see that ludicrous display last night?
Old 01-21-2003, 01:03 PM
UDS UDS is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Australia
Posts: 7,895
Acceptability is a matter of usage. There is a regular cycle at work here; when a Latin word is first introduced to English everybody recognises it as a Latin word and treats it accordingly. Over time, however, it comes to be treated as an English word. The words "data", "agenda" and (increasingly) "media" are nowadays treated as singular words, not plural, and I suspect if you could find a context in which to pluralise "agenda" people would expect you to use "agendas" as the plural. I myself would pluralise "curriculum" as "curricula", but I couldn't say that "curriculums" was wrong.
Old 01-21-2003, 01:59 PM
friedo friedo is online now
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 23,583
FWIW, I've always said and heard "curicula."

Reminds me of Caligula. Heheheh.
Old 01-21-2003, 02:40 PM
astorian astorian is offline
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: austin tx usa
Posts: 34,912
My Latin I finally comes in handy!

First declension Latin nouns take take their plurals as such:

A masculine noun ends with "us," and forms its plural by replacing the "us" with an "i."


One alumnus, two alumni.

A feminine noun ends with 'a," and forms its plural by replacing "a" with "ae."


One alumna, two alumnae.

Finally, a neuter noun ends with "um," and forms its plural by replacing "um" with "a."


One medium, two media.
One curriculum, two curricula.
Old 01-21-2003, 02:44 PM
Scarlett67 Scarlett67 is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: The Middle of Nowhere, WI
Posts: 10,702
In every education textbook I've copyedited in the past eight years (all seven of them), the author used curricula.

That piece of information plus fifty cents will pay two days' fines on your overdue library copy of Strunk & White.


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:32 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017