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In baseball, an inning is a team's (or both teams', depending on context) turn to bat. A game consists of 9 innings. In cricket, an innings is a team's turn to bat, a game consists of 2 or 4 innings. How did this difference in singular usage arise?

"inning" could conceivably be derived like "outing": An outing is a time when one is out, an inning is a time when one is in (to bat/to play). Where did the singular "innings" come from?

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"Innings" in British usage is either singular or plural. It's just one of those words with identical singular and plural forms. It's not the only word ending with an s that's plural; consider (apart from many -ics words like physics and politics) news and (both singular and plural) means, series, species, etc. This is what Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (British, 1926) says:

Plural anomalies. See -ICS for the question of whether words in -ics are singular or plural. Plural names of diseases, as mumps, measles, glanders, can be treated as singular or plural; chickenpox & smallpox, originally plural, are now reckoned singular. Innings, corps, & some other words in -s, are singular or plural without change in spelling, but, while corps has -s silent in singular and sounded in plural, an innings & several innings show no distinction, whence arises the colloquial double plural inningses. For the plural of Court Martial & Lord Justice, the number of porridge, & the difference between pence & pennies, see the words.

So it was special enough to invite comment (and unusual enough to invite coinages like "inningses"). The OED doesn't give any special etymology; it just comes from "in", as the "outing" you mentioned comes from "out".

In American usage, "inning" is a back-formation from the plural "innings". According to a random comment on languagehat,

… "innings". This is both the singular and plural form in cricket. It is also frequently seen this way in early baseball. For a time both "inning" and "innings" were seen used as singular, but by the 1870s or so the singular "innings" was uncommon. Nowadays it is unheard of in a baseball context.

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What's funny is I always pronounce "corps" as "corpse", not "core". –  Soviut Jul 22 '11 at 11:49
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"Inning" is actually a back-formation, caused by the mistaken belief that "innings" was a only a plural (and possibly by the general American tendency, to simplify spelling -- e.g. dropping the 'u' from "colo(u)r").

But "innings" is actually singular as well as plural, and has been used as such since at least the early 1700s.

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Right, but what's the etymology of "innings" then? –  Peter Eisentraut Aug 5 '10 at 20:26
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