how to write the plural of latin and greek words in english

Curtis Clark jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU
Mon Oct 26 08:22:43 CST 1998

At 11:34 AM 10/26/98 +0100, Sean Edwards wrote:
>A taxon is a singular concept; there is only one (legitimate) genus
>Gladiolus. You may use it as an adjectival noun, as in "several
>Gladiolus species" or "several Gladiolus plants". This also gets
>round the issue as to whether the last "s" of Sphagnums goes into
>italics or not. You still do see pluralized taxa in scientific
>journals, which shall remain anonymous.

It's more complex than this. By convention, genera are grammatically
singular, but most higher taxa are plural:

Actual name             What it would be if singular
-------------           ----------------------------
Plantae         Planta
Anthophyta              Anthophyton or Anthophytum
Magnoliopsida           Magnoliopsidon or Magnoliopsidum
Asterales               Asteralis
Asteraceae              Asteracea
Helianthoideae          Helianthoidea
Heliantheae             Helianthea

Family names in German and French, and in many works in Spanish, preserve
the plural: Asteraceen, asterac=E9es, asteraceas. (This is undoubtedly true
in other languages and for other categories as well.)

So in fact Gladiolus is a genus, but Asteraceae are a family.

Curtis Clark
Biological Sciences Department             Voice: (909) 869-4062
California State Polytechnic University      FAX: (909) 869-4078
Pomona CA 91768-4032  USA                  jcclark at

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