Most Uncommon (or weird) Singular Words in English

There are many words in English that are often used only in the plural form. Speakers often make the mistake of using the plural grammatical form when they should actually use the singular. Here are 9 words that are quite common in the plural but unusual in the singular with examples of how to use them:

1. Data – The singular is datum.

Example: The data show that the drug effectively lowers cholesterol.

2. Criteria – The singular is criterion.

Example: The most important criteria for college admissions committees are GPA, SAT score and involvement in extracurricular activities.

3. Media -The singular is medium.

Example: The media are often accused of being biased.

4. Alumni – The singular is alumnus for a male and alumna for a female (female plural is alumnae).

Example: The alumni gathered at their university for their 10th reunion.

5. Dice – The singular is die.

Example: Yahtzee is played by rolling five dice to make different combinations.

6. Bacteria – The singular is bacterium.

Example: Bacteria are often found on light switches and remote controls in hotel.

7. Algae – The singular is alga.

Example: Some types of algae are edible.

8. Paparazzi – The singular is paparazzo. 

Example: The paparazzi compete with one another to get the best picture of a celebrity.

9. Parentheses – The singular is parenthesis.

Example: The teacher did not like that she used so many parentheses in her writing.

Bracha Rubin
Bracha is a Pedagogy & Curriculum Associate at Voxy and a born-and-raised New Yorker. She graduated from Columbia College with a degree in Linguistics, and is beginning a speech-language pathology master’s degree program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Bracha is passionate about language and language learning, and especially enjoys discussing pronunciation and grammar.