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 '14 at 11:14
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    Maybe hypercorrection, as some answers guess. Or maybe as a joke. – GEdgar Mar 26 '14 at 13:16

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

           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 '16 at 17:26

I am sure they were hypercorrecting: http://www.google.com/search?q=scenario+plur

However they might have been old Italians:


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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  • 4
    Nice answer — but when including material in another language, it’s helpful to give a translation to English, since otherwise it won’t be useful for many users. I’ve taken the liberty of adding one myself, but I’m not a fluent French speaker so it may well be imperfect. – PLL Feb 8 '11 at 15:46
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    Looks OK to me :) – mplungjan Feb 8 '11 at 16:10
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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 '11 at 19:01
  • Yeah my Italian colleague was not too clear when I asked – mplungjan Feb 8 '11 at 19:04

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 '11 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 '11 at 15:57

“scenarios” is the correct one.

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

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The root of the word Scenario is the word "scene" or "scena" or "scaene" etc. In english language it was imported from italian as stated in previous answers, but it definitely originated from ancient greek.

Look here: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=scene

or here https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/scene#English

(or same address for the term scaena)

In greek the plural of scenario is scenaria

Similarly to the plural of phenomenon, which is phenomena Similarly to the plural of criterion, which is criteria

At the same time, as more people use this word in english in plural, it may have become common to use it as "scenarios". Perhaps, usage will make it "correct". But if someone wants to keep the trace of the word, the "correct" form is scenaria, despite being in a minority status.

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  • 2
    Sure... "scenario - scenaria" exists in modern Greek, but isn't it just a loan from Italian, like the English word? I don't think "-ario" is a native Greek suffix. It's clear that the "scene" part of the word originated in Greek, but that's only the start of the word. The proper plural form in English will likely be based on the history of the end of the word. – herisson Apr 20 '17 at 17:09

The correct one is scenaria.

Scenarion is a Greek word, as is the case for almost 1/3 of the english and also Latin languages. It is a direct word loan.

In Greek, the plural of scenarion is 'scenaria', as in plural the endings -on convert into -a. For example, criterion --> criteria. But there are also other similar examples, phenomenon --> phenomena.

Hope this is of some help.

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  • 1
    Really??? All the online etymologies say it comes from the Italian scenario, which comes from the Latin scaena, which is in term from the Ancient Greek σκηνή (skene). Do you have any evidence that skenarion is an actual Ancient Greek word? – Peter Shor Apr 14 '15 at 11:46
  • This is utterly incorrect. Scenario is not a Greek word at all. It is an Italian noun, from a late-Latin adjective scēnarius derived from the Latin word scēna/scaena. This is borrowed from Greek σκηνή, but the derivation thence to scenario is purely Latin and Italian. The (Modern) Greek word is σενάριο, that is, also borrowed from the Italian word. The closest equivalent Ancient Greek had is σκηνωτός, which means approximately the same thing as the Latin adjective, but is formed in a different way. Please do not post answers as fact without checking that they are factual. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 14 '15 at 12:00

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