By on February 21, 2011

The question “what is the plural of Prius?” had been discussed at some length here at at TTAC well before Toyota’s marketing team picked up on the idea and held a contest soliciting votes on the correct answer. And, as it turns out, etymological corectness doesn’t resonate withe masses quite like a nice, short name… which, incidentally, brings the debate full circle.  TTAC started out calling multiples of the hybrid hatch Prii, before New Years Eve when we found out that Priora was the more accurate term because

Prius is the neuter nominative/accusative singular of the adjective prior, but the plural forms of the word – which means ‘earlier, better, more important’- would be Priora

Then, on New Years Day two years later, we corrected once again when we were informed that

Actually prius is an adverb, so it can’t have a plural. But the related noun form is prior, prioris, 3rd declension. According to my Bennett’s New Latin Grammar (CR:1956), the plural of liquid stem (ending in -l or -r) 3rd declension nouns is -es (that’s a long e, with a bar over it). So it should be Priores.

But it turns out that our attempts to unite the twin disciplines of auto enthusiasm and Latin grammar fell on deaf ears. Automotive News [sub] reports that Toyota’s month-long survey is complete and that fans have determined that the name should be Prii. According to Toyota’s presser on the matter

Prii becomes the word not only endorsed by the public who chose it, but also as the term recognized by Toyota

Debate over.

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14 Comments on “Prius Drivers Don’t Know Their Latin...”

  • avatar

    One Prius car
    Two Prius cars
    What’s so hard about that?

  • avatar

    It may not come from the Toyota PR department, but IMO a more on-point video would be

  • avatar

    I have Wii but not Prii.

  • avatar

    With that out of the way, what is the proper plural of the Latin-named Sonata?  And, if in some regions the singular of the discount giant is “Wal-Marts” what is the plural?  Wal-Martses?

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    What about…
    Lexus -> Lexi
    Leaf -> Leaves

  • avatar

    Doesn’t being a proper noun make a difference here?
    The plural of “deer” is just “deer”, but if someone had a last name of “Deer” isn’t that plural “Deers”?

  • avatar

    There’s also the question of what to call a group of Prii. “Prissy” will do for now.

  • avatar

    Prii is nowhere near correct, but that won’t matter to people. Since ‘Prius’ is a proper name, we should use ‘Priuses’ which would follow other common uses like ‘viruses’.
    Of course, people use ‘would of’, ‘could of’, and ‘should of’ as well as confusing there/their/they’re and to/too/two, so this is no surprise. The misuse of apostrophes has reached such proportions that there are web sites that chronicle the abuse.

  • avatar

    I think Toyota is trying for a priimature ending to this quandry.  Since Prius is not a proper Latin noun, it becomes an English noun subject to English rules.  And our rule is that we can do whatever we want.  I predict that most people will call a Prius plus another Prius “Priuses”, and toyota will have to live with it.
    By the way, the plural of “Wii” is “Wii’uns” in the southern half of the US.

  • avatar

    Toyota can, of course, coin whatever plural they want for their own product. (Prii, though?  Really?  Sigh.)  For the independent question of the plural of prius in Latin, however, the only correct answer is still priora.  In Latin, prius is either an adverb (which, as noted, has no plural) or, with that same spelling, it is an adjective (plural priora), as properly explained earlier.  The subsequent discussion of priores is for a different word which is never spelled prius in any of its forms, and therefore has no bearing on this.

  • avatar

    Debate over.

    Except we still need to decide how to pronounce Prii. Pree? Pree-eye?

  • avatar

    I’m sticking with Priuses.

  • avatar

    “Prius” is a brand name, so therefore the plural term is “Priuses.” Toyota’s “Prii” is simply marketing. In the same vein, I didn’t pry off and throw away the “L” and “Y” keys on my keyboard when Apple launched its “Think Different” marketing campaign.
    See the first few paragraphs of this Grammar Girl article for more:

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