Can the word myriad be used in a stand-alone fashion, without a subsequent of prepositional?

He rose to address the myriad, and wept.

The word is a noun, and this usage sounds poetic to me, and I can't think of any reason beyond convention why it must precede an of (especially if there is sufficient context establishing the items being vaguely quantified)

Perhaps switching the article makes it more awkward:

He rose to address a myriad, and wept.

However, qualifying it suddenly brings it around:

He rose to address an assembling myriad, and wept.


Nothing special about myriad as such.

He rose to address the poor and the sick.

The definite article can 'nounify' an adjective!

*He rose to address a myriad, and wept.

Incidentally, the noun and the adjective forms of myriad have different meanings and usage.

  • Ah nice.. i hadn't considered examples like "the poor", etc.. I've just been on the receiving end of a lecture that myriad must be followed by "of", when used as a quantifying noun, so this definitely helps
    – user59038
    Dec 6 '13 at 7:07
  • @user59038 I read the myriad here as a poetic substitute for the masses, like the multitude, but Kris' point is valid. Consider for example the six hundred, the five thousand, or the million.
    – choster
    Dec 6 '13 at 7:54

Myriad was a noun before it was an adjective, and its earliest meaning was ‘ten thousand’. It later came to mean, when used in the singular, ‘a countless number of specified things’. There would thus seem to be no grammatical reason why it cannot be used in the way shown in your examples. Whether or not it is a wise stylistic choice is another matter.

  • POS apart, (after all, myriad is still a noun in contemporary English), why the need for the definite article here then? Why is the indefinite article awkward? "He rose to address a ten thousand," should be fine, as "He addressed a million". I had tried that route but could not see light.
    – Kris
    Dec 6 '13 at 8:32
  • @Kris: A ten thousand sounds as awkward as a one man, as addressed in various questions. A million is certainly fine; a myriad is equally so, though the question remains whether it means 'a unit of ten thousand' or 'a large number' Dec 6 '13 at 13:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.