You’re likely familiar with irregular plurals like geese and mice. For many English language students, the logic, or lack thereof when it comes to plurals, can be mind boggling. Even for native speakers, there are many such words that baffle us as well. Without any rules or guidelines, many irregular plurals simply must be learned and remembered.
ThoughtCo explains the language roadmap we must navigate when irregular plurals have alternate plural forms: “Sometimes, alternative plurals have even developed different senses, as in the cases of (spirit) mediums vs. (mass) media, appendixes (in bodies or books) vs. appendices (only in books), or anntenae (for insects) vs. antennas (for televisions or radios).”
As you’ll see in the short list below, many words with irregular plurals are loanwords that have kept their foreign plural forms.
- The plural of beef is beeves. This is true only for beef in the sense of ‘cow.’ Multiple arguments are beefs.
- The plural of opus is opera or opuses.
- The plural of sphinx is sphinges. Sphinxes is an acceptable secondary option.
- The plural of biceps is bicepses.
- The plural, gender neutral form of nieces and nephews is niblings. Coined in 1951, this neologism is reserved for specialist literature.
- The plural of attorney general is attorneys general. Similar plurals would be postmasters general, mothers-in-law, and coups d’etat.
- The singular form of spaghetti is spaghetto! Likewise, the singular form of confetti is confetto, and graffiti is graffito.
Test your knowledge with this list of the 100 most common irregular plurals.