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What is the plural of "scenario"? I have always used "scenarios", but have recently come across "scenaria" and "scenarii". Should I be treating it as an Italian or Latin word?

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    It's not Latin. And the only way you could get to scenaria would be by projecting the Italian word back to a (non-existent, as far as I know) Latin word scenarium, of which scenaria would indeed be the plural.
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 26, 2014 at 11:14
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    Maybe hypercorrection, as some answers guess. Or maybe as a joke.
    – GEdgar
    Mar 26, 2014 at 13:16
  • Since this is not an English word, usual English rules don't apply. I've been taught to write it scenarii, with insistence from my French teacher. My family agree. Books agree. Doesn't look like it's debatable. Jan 21, 2022 at 2:27

5 Answers 5

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Here are the stats from the Corpus of Contemporary American English and the British National Corpus:

word COCA BNC
scenarios 3683 216
scenaria 0 0
scenarii 0 0

Merriam-Webster, Wiktionary, the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, and the Collins English Dictionary only mention scenarios.

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  • Ngram shows pretty much the same. There are a few brief instants in the 1800s where one of the other pops up ("scenario" didn't really begin becoming popular until about 1900), but this is most likely due to OCR errors.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 23, 2016 at 17:26
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I am sure they were hypercorrecting: http://www.google.com/search?q=scenario+plur

However they might have been old Italians:

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sc%C3%A9nario

Le mot provient de l’italien scenario, « décor de théâtre ». En français, le mot s’est d’abord utilisé sans accent comme en italien, mais cet usage est archaïque.

Ni le pluriel italien archaïque scenarii (ancienne orthographe[1]), ni sa variante francisée scénarii (avec accent aigu) ne sont d'usage courant : le pluriel scénarios est le plus commun en français[2]. Selon l’Académie française, en effet, le mot scénario étant français (en italien, il n'aurait pas d'accent aigu), le pluriel « scénarios » s'impose - exactement comme pour lavabos ou pianos.[3]

The word comes from Italian scenario, “theatre scenery”. In French, the word was originally used without an accent as in Italian, but this is archaic.

Neither the archaic Italian plural scenarii (old spelling[1]), nor its French variant scénarii (with acute accent) is currently used: the plural scénarios is most common in French. Indeed, according to the Académie Française, since scénario is a French word (in Italian, there would be no acute accent), the plural scénarios is required — just as in lavabos, pianos.[3]

A Scenario in Italian is Sceneggiatura according to Wikipedia. Not what we are looking for here according to Francesco

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    "Sceneggiatura" actually means "script", like in a "script of a movie". A scenario in italian is "Scenografia" when it means "thatre scenery" and is a "scenario" like in "generating scenarios according to some probability distribution".
    – Francesco
    Feb 8, 2011 at 19:01
  • Yeah my Italian colleague was not too clear when I asked
    – mplungjan
    Feb 8, 2011 at 19:04
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Wiktionary reports that the plural of scenario is scenarios. It also reports that the "hypercorrect" plural of scenario is held to be scenarii (which is nonstandard and rare) since its etymology is Italian.

From scenario, the terminal o having been replaced with an i to form its plural, as per the Italian -o → -i pattern for forming plurals, by analogy with concerti and virtuosi. However, the plural of the Italian word scenario is scenari, making “scenarii” etymologically inconsistent.

According to Merriam-Webster and the OED, the accepted plural of scenario is scenarios. The Corpus of Contemporary American English reports 3683 instances of scenarios being used and none of scenarii.

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    +1 for reading Wiktionary more carefully than I have. (^_^)
    – RegDwigнt
    Feb 8, 2011 at 13:12
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    Interesting, but if the quotation in @mplungjan’s entry is accurate, then scenarii wouldn’t actually be etymologically inconsistent: scenari is the modern spelling of the Italian plural, but scenarii was the older form of it, appropriate from when the word was originally borrowed.
    – PLL
    Feb 8, 2011 at 15:57
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“scenarios” is the correct one.

And by the way, in Italian the plural is “scenari” (single i).

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  • According to the Wikitionary, scenarii is old/obsolete but it is not mentioned as incorrect.
    – Attila
    Apr 5, 2023 at 8:16
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Scenario is not from Greek as mentioned above, it's from Italian, and Italian is from Latin.

In Latin, Scenario is from "Scaena", which is then changed one last time to become "Scaenarius", to express something in particular and not the "scene" in general.

The Latin declension of Scaenarius in plural Nominal masculine (yes "scenario" is a masculine word) is Scaenarii.

https://www.online-latin-dictionary.com/latin-dictionary-flexion.php?lemma=SCAENARIUS100

Scenarios became a recurrent mistake because of the common "s" added at the end of a plural word.

Some books use Scenarii as the plural of scenario, and it is a pretty common word in literature.

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    Hello, Teva. ELU looks at present English usage; there are many examples where errors made in the past have since been incorporated into grammar or the lexicon and are now acceptable, possibly at the expense of what might be considered more felicitous. Dictionaries pronounce upon what should be now considered acceptable; look at Tragicomic's answer. Feb 23, 2021 at 12:26

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