Monday, March 26, 2007

The plural of index

Being the former Latin teacher that I am, I have a hard time with Anglicized plurals of Latin words. For me the plural of index is indices, not indexes.

Well, however you want to spell it, Eisenbrauns now has the indices of all Eisenbrauns books published since 2001 on the web in PDF form. That's right, if you are wondering whether or not a certain topic is covered in a book, and how thoroughly, you can download the PDF of the index/indices of that book and search it.

By the way, what is the plural of syllabus?


Patrick G. McCullough said...

I say "syllabi"

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

I'm for "indices," too. "Indexes" has the ring of "millenniums" to me.

jps said...

Yes, according to Lewis & Short's Latin Dictionary, the plural of syllabus is syllabi, taken from the Greek. Interestingly, they only cite Augustine.


I agree!


Unknown said...

Eisenbrauns uses the standard for book publishing in North America for the spelling, including plurals, of words, regardless of their etymology or derivation. Thus, the plural of index in Merriam-Webster's Third New International is (preferably) indexes, but also indices; of syllabus, the plural is (preferably) syllabi, but also syllabuses; of millennium, the plural is (preferably) millennia (not the horrible misspelling of the Mazda vehicle, the Millenia, whatever that's supposed to mean) but also millenniums. Whatever one thinks of the value of etymology as a basis for pluralizing words (not much, in general; the trend is toward anglicization), we do publish according to standard reference works (including dictionaries). Hence, Eisenbrauns books have indexes.

Carol Browning said...

My Greek/Latin prof told us the proper plural of "syllabus" was "syllabuses" because "syllabus" is a noun of the fourth declension (like "domus"), not of the more common second declension (like "alumnus"). Thus the Latin plural would be the same as the singular, "syllabus," and would be Anglicanized to "syllabuses." He did say the second-declension "syllabus/syllabi" was listed secondarily as a possible use in whatever Latin dictionary he owned.

Just ran across your blog and though I would drop off a random piece of knowledge!

jps said...


I used to think that also, but when I looked it up in Lewis & Short, they cited Augustine and 2nd declension. The reason most think it is 4th declension is because it appears to be a Greek loan word (although I couldn't find it in LSJ) formed from sun + lambano and many of those come into Latin as 4th declension nouns.