Ask the Best and Brightest: What The Plural of Prius?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
ask the best and brightest what the plural of prius

Believe it or not, we’ve already had this debate. In December 2007, we hashed it out and decided on “Priora.” But a TTAC reader wishes to reopen that can of worms (castigat ridendo mores). So here goes… “I had Latin in high school, so when I saw TTAC having the plural of Prius as Priora, my pedantry went on instant alert. While I admit, a priora, that it sounds good, it isn’t right. 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.” Personally, go sum rex Romanus et supra grammaticam. Your thoughts?

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  • Pch101 Pch101 on Jan 02, 2009
    My source for prius being an adverb is Cassell’s Latin-English Dictionary CR about 1925 or so (someone else can supply the A.U.C. date, which is since the founding of Rome :))….it means “formerly”, as in “He formerly batted .500″. That is the only listing for prius. While it does end in -us, that does NOT automatically make it a second declension masculine noun. The problem with this assessment is that in the context of the Toyota car, "Prius" is a proper noun in English, not an adverb in Latin. The pluralization should follow English-language rules for nouns. Typically, a singular noun ending in "s" is made plural by adding "es" to the end, e.g. "Charles" would become "Charleses." That means that "Prius" should become "Priuses." Not that it matters for me. I won't be buying one, anyway.

  • DeanMTL DeanMTL on Jan 02, 2009

    It's Priuses. It's a noun and technically a trade name, so the Latin roots are disregarded. Agreed with whoever gave "Focuses" as the example.

  • Rudiger Rudiger on Jan 02, 2009

    As has been stated, although the origin of the word is (apparently) a Latin adverb, the context is that of a proper English noun. It then becomes a question of what's the best way for the word to be understood when trying to convey multiples. Although rather inefficient because of the double use of two syllables ending with the consonant 's' (meaning that it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue), 'Priuses' (like 'Focuses') would be the most acceptable form. However, I would imagine that other, more pedantic, affected derivatives, such as Prius, Pria, Prii, or the aforementioned Priora, will likely end up being just as acceptable, simply because they are easier to say and/or write. My guess will be that if someone wants to simply say a multiple of Prius in the simplest, most direct, easiest understood way possible, they'll use Priuses. OTOH, if they want the writing to be witty or florid (which is often the case on TTAC), one of the other forms will be used. The best thing about seeing one of the non-'Priuses' forms is that at least it will be unlikely to see the word 'hoon' used in the same passage...

  • Morbo Morbo on Jan 02, 2009
    "What The Plural of Prius?" Suburban (Expedition or Sequoia also acceptable)