Did the word "alot" ever exist?

I distinctly remember being taught the word “alot” in public school (early '80s). It was used like, “I enjoy eating nachos alot” or “I have alot of nachos.”

Now, in the age of Microsoft Office, the word “alot” gets auto-corrected to “a lot” and “alot” has “no dictionary results” at dictionary.com.

Did the word “alot” exist at one point? Why am I remembering it?

The word allot exists.

Your memory is incorrect. Or whoever taught that to you was ignorant. The closest to it is “allot,” which means to portion out.

Why do people struggle so much with this phrase? You never see someone type “I have adozen eggs,” or “I have apint of whiskey.” Do they park their cars in “thelot”?

The word “alot” meaning the opposite of “alittle” never existed in formal writing. What you were taught I can’t speak for. Even “a lot” is considered fairly informal.
(The word “alittle” never existed either.) “Allot” is a word.

The Alot Is Better Than You At Everything

i think alot about that because i recall it too.

The scope of the English language is descriptive, not prescriptive like French. There is no learned body that adjudicates these things in English (unlike French).

A word enters English as a matter of fact when it becomes used and accepted, not when Oxford University issues a new version of their dictionary with the word in it.

So, yes, “alot” IS a word, albeit one that is discouraged in formal usage.

Relatedly, what is the status of “cannot” these days? I was always taught that using “cannot” was a horrible sin, but lately a lot of spell checkers helpfully extract the spaces from my "can not"s for me.

Soylent Juicy
Are you Canadian by any chance? I have been having the same issue and I distinctly remember being taught in school that “alot” was a word.

I have to side with your spell checker. Now, what about ahold as in I am trying to get ahold of him?

YES, in fact I was just going to post that maybe it’s a Canadian thing. I’m so glad other people remember this too!

:confused: “Cannot” has been correct English all my life (and I am fairly old now). Indeed, I would say that it has a slightly different meaning from “can not”:

I cannot dance = I am unable to dance.

I can not dance = I am not compelled to dance.

In most contexts, “cannot” is the form you want (or “can’t”, which is a contraction of “cannot”, not of “can not”).

I think you were taught wrong; your spellchecker is correct.
I see that Wiktionary (bless its little descriptivist heart) actually lists alot as a "nonstandard spelling of “a lot” (and it is also a town in India), but, as other posters are saying, it has never been “good” standard English (and even the OED which includes a lot of weird, non-standard stuff - even Canadian stuff - does not list it).

It’s because “a dozen”, etc. is still perceived by most English speakers as specifying a particular amount or number, whereas no one thinks of a “lot”* anymore when they hear “a lot” – it’s just perceived as a phrase which, taken as a whole, signifies “much” or “many”.

A bit like we never stop to question what exactly we are standing under when we “understand” something.

Or, to use an example from another language, whenever a French speaker says something negative (e.g., “I don’t know” = “je ne sais pas”), they don’t think to themselves “I don’t know EVEN A SINGLE STEP” – the original meaning of the “pas” part. Now, they just parse “pas” as meaning “not”.

(*These days, “lot” by itself usually means nothing more than a parking lot. Judging from the phrase “a lot”, it used to be used for more things than that – a portion, as in “allotment” or “lottery” – but there’s no special reason why it happened to become such a generalized phrase. It could have just as easily happened to, say, “a heap” (closer to the Spanish equivalent, “un monton”) – but it didn’t.)

Oh, and apparently alot is a word for a boat, in the Kiput language “spoken by about 450 people in northern Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.”

I thought it important that you should know this.

I wasn’t.

I don’t think it’s a Canadian thing. I think it’s an incorrect thing.

Cat Whisperer

It may be an age thing also, I am in my mid forties and as I said I distinctly remember learning that in grade school, which would have been in the 1970’s. I had noticed it in spell check occasionally but it was recently pointed out to me when I was doing some editing for a friends music and he said I made a mistake. I have no problem admitting to a mistake but I know that this was what I was taught in school, otherwise I would not have used it for 30 years.

Just a WAG, but perhaps, back in grade school, you and/or your teacher confused the “a lot/alot” issue (only the former is accepted in Standard English) with the “all right/alright” issue – “alright” is very informal, but is not, AFAIK, as universally unacceptable in Standard English as “alot” is.

You give me an entire pint of whiskey, then I’d surprised to even spell “pint” correctly, let alone put a space in the right place.

A “lot” was in a near-obsolete usage an arbitrary grouping of items (which might be a single item), for purposes of dealing with discrete lots, each “lot” together but separately from other “lots.” In auctions, for example, a set of matching end tables and coffee table might be sold together as a single lot, while a group of a dozen Elvis-on-velvet prints might be another lot. In trading stocks, 100 shares is a ‘round lot’ while a quantity of less than 100 shares is an ‘odd lot’.

There’s a very short intellectual jump from “I bought a lot of furniture at the auction today” to “I bought a lot of groceries at the store” when both can mean a large arbitrary grouping.