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Octopi vs. Octopuses

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips
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English borrows many words from other languages. These words are called “loanwords.” Most are from Latin, French, and the Germanic languages, but some are borrowed from other sources. Octopus is one of these loanwords, which adds to the confusion around its plural form. How do you form the plural of octopus? Some people follow the rule for regular plurals, and simply add -es. Others change the -us to -i, following the rule for some Latin plurals. However, which plural form is correct? Read on to discover the difference between these two plural forms of the word octopus.

In this article, I will compare octopuses vs. octopi. I will use each in a sentence, and I will also discuss a useful trick to help you decide whether octopi or octopuses is correct for your writing.

Origin:

The words octupuses and octopi are the plural form of octopus which originated from mid-18th century: modern Latin, from Greek oktōpous.

Octopus as noun:

The word octopus is a noun which refers to the a cephalopod mollusc with eight sucker-bearing arms, a soft sac-like body, strong beak-like jaws, and no internal shell.

Use of octopuses:

Octopuses is the standard plural form of octopus. Over the years, it has become the accepted form in both American and British English and is used with much greater frequency than octopi.

Examples:

Octopuses are highly intelligent animals and have been proven to have a strong short and long-term memory. [Telegraph]

Octopuses, turtles and rays glide along the seabed. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Octopi vs. Octopuses

Cable had a great year, and media octopuses like Time Warner and News Corporation continue to find plenty of profits. [New York Times]

Use of octopi:

Octopi is sometimes used as the plural of octopus. Despite its relatively common usage, octopi is an improper plural. Latin words are sometimes pluralized with an -i, but octopus originates from Greek, not Latin. As the Oxford English Dictionary states, the plural form octopi is mistakenly formed according to rules for Latin plurals, and is therefore incorrect.

Examples:

The former is served a martini glass, holding about a dozen mini octopi cooked in a sweet and spicy sauce … [Birmingham News]

A ban on fishing in the region may affect the market for octopi and marine-based food products popular in Los Angeles … [LAist]

Noise pollution knocks squid, octopi off balance [MSNBC]

Octopuses or octopi:

An octopus is a type of animal. Octopus is a loanword, which means it is a word borrowed from another language. In this case, the word octopus is a loanword from Greek. Octopi is a common mistake. Octopuses is the standard plural form of octopus. Some writers use octopi to refer to more than one octopus. This pluralization follows a rule for forming plurals of Latin words. However, the word octopus is not of Latin origin, so this formation is not correct. Octopuses follows the rule for regular plural nouns in English and has become the accepted plural of octopus in modern English. For this reason, you should use octopuses instead of octopi. Since octopi ends with -i and incorrect begins with i, you should have no trouble remembering whether octopuses or octopi is the right word to choose.

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