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Why is it that the plural of one goose is geese but the plural of moose is moose? Same goes for house and louse. The plurals are houses and lice, respectively.

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This is the well-known issue of O-E ablaut. –  tchrist Apr 18 '13 at 18:17
Why do you think the plural of buck is bucks, but for quid its quid and for money its money? –  Fr0zenFyr Apr 18 '13 at 21:11
@tchrist, umlaut, not ablaut. ;-) –  Janus Bahs Jacquet May 13 '14 at 19:55

3 Answers 3

Why is there so much diversity in how English nouns are pluralized? answers most of your question quite well, I think. The relevant summary is that English (a) has major influences from a very wide range of sources (b) is rooted in Old English, which has several pluralisation schemas for different classes of word. So some Old English words pluralise by suffixing -s, some by suffixing -en, some with a vowel shift and some stay the same. Some words (ox/oxen, louse/lice) have kept their old plurals, and others have 'normalised' due to pressure on the language to be regular (cow/kine). Wikipedia has a nice reference on English plurals if you feel like exploring.

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The word "goose" comes into English from an ancient Germanic language that had something called strong declension. Basically, what it means is that these words, which include "foot" and "tooth," pluralize by changing the "oo" to "ee" (like foot/feet and tooth/teeth). So that's why the plural of "goose" is "geese." Similar rules come into play for the words "louse" and "mouse." While people may have used a word similar to "hide" as the plural form of "house," the word was simply modernized into the more standard form of English pluralization (addition of the letter -s) while the others were not. "Moose" comes into English from a North American/Native American source around 400 years ago and does not follow the ancient Germanic language rules. The similarities between the two words is simply coincidental.

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Goose didn't really “come into English from” any ancient Germanic language that had strong declensions—English is in origin an ancient Germanic language that has/had strong declensions. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 8 '14 at 7:38

Moose is Germanic and therefore its plural follows the Germanic rule.

Goose is a French word, so it changes its plural after the manner of its language of origin.

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There is basically nothing in this answer that is not completely and utterly wrong. Goose is Germanic, while moose is neither Germanic nor French, but Algonquian. The umlaut plural in geese is not typical of French, but of Germanic languages. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet May 13 '14 at 19:54
So you’re saying that the plural of der Moose is die Meese, n’est-ce pas? And that the plural of le goose is les gooses, nicht wahr? –  tchrist May 13 '14 at 20:36
German for "moose" is der Elch and the plural is die Elche. That does not even vaguely resemble moose. In French goose is oie. In German it is gänse. @JanusBahsJacquet hit the nail on the head. –  Cyberherbalist May 13 '14 at 20:56
@tchrist, t’as jamais ouï parler des beaux gooses ? ;-) –  Janus Bahs Jacquet May 13 '14 at 20:59

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