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Busses, or perhaps buses

The OED states that both "buses" and "busses" are acceptable plural forms of "bus". Is one generally preferred over the other?

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Beware: busses could be the plural of buss rather than bus. If you don't know, buss means kiss. –  GEdgar Nov 16 '11 at 1:18
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Or the present tense (3rd person) of to bus. –  tajmo Nov 16 '11 at 1:49
    
"The Motor Bus" may have something to say on the matter. –  lonesomeday Nov 16 '11 at 10:26
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6 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

To be more precise, the citations in the OED’s entry for bus include 2 instances of busses and 9 of buses. In its own commentary, the OED uses buses. The British National Corpus records 1438 instances of buses and 10 of busses. The figures in the Corpus of Contemporary American English are 5139 and 116. I think that means you’re in good company if you use buses.

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As others have pointed out, buses is far more common than busses.

But I see no mention of the fact that in recent decades, busses is almost exclusively restricted to the computer hardware context, where a bus is a subsystem that transfers data between components inside a computer. For reasons that escape me, buses rarely occurs in the computer context.

EDIT: I'll just add that I worked for decades on computerised systems within the UK public transport industry. Until this question came up I don't think it ever occurred to me that anyone might switch or merge what I'd always thought of as two completely distinct words. But I did sometimes wonder why the computer singular wasn't always spelled buss (as sometimes it was).

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Google NGram Viewer shows that buses is more popular than busses.

enter image description here

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For those concerned about Napoleonic bus stations: busses also meant kisses. –  TimLymington Nov 15 '11 at 22:36
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You will find buses is more popular than busses. Similarly, omnibuses was more popular than omnibusses

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OALD and CALD each lists the plural of bus as buses but adds that busses is also used in AmE. This agrees with MW which lists both forms. I would go for buses which applies to both variants currently.

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If the plural of bus is buses, then think about fuses muses abuses excuses ruses.

The vowel in bus is a short vowel and the final consonant should be doubled to show the correct pronunciation.

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English orthography ‘should’ do a lot of things that it quite consistently does not (and shouldn’t do a lot of things that it quite consistently does). This answer, while logical enough in its premise, does not tally with reality. Also compare ‘discuses’, ‘abacuses’, ‘rhombuses’, etc., where no doubling is ever used. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 10 '13 at 23:00
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