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While attempting to answer this question @ProgramFox has been trying to come up with an example of a noun with no plural.

The best I've come up with is egotism and Judaism. (Flux may be a viable contender as there is a related question asking about its plural!)

Some of the contenders I've already shot down are air, water, and money. (Airs, waters, and monies are all legitimate plurals.)

My question is, a) Do my two examples have actual plurals? b) Are there any other non-ism nouns that don't have a plural?

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    Mass nouns are inherently non-plural, but probably any mass noun can be used as a count noun to give it some additional connotation, as you have done with airs, waters, and monies. I find "There are many different Judaisms" to be an acceptable way to express the idea that the word Judaism includes people with a wide variety of beliefs, and practices. If you allow stretching words in this way, I don't know that you'll find an answer. Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 17:08
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    Equally different egotisms are manifest in different egotists.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 17:20
  • 1891 A. U. Hancock Genius of Galilee 490 His intense Judaisms must be weeded out to make his narrative at all palatable to the Hellenistic and Roman. OED- A Judaism = ... a practice, belief, etc., associated with Jews.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 12:10
  • I'm tempted to suggest "stupidity", but I won't.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 12:26
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    @DavidM - I don't think so. Uncommon, perhaps, but 1988 New England Quarterly. "He [sc. Isaac Watts] would excise these ‘Judaisms’ from the Psalms and spiritualize them into full harmony with the Christian message." and The book: Judaisms: A Twenty-First-Century Introduction to Jews and Jewish Identities By Aaron J. Hahn Tapper. In fact, Google Ngrams gives a large surge in popularity for the word after 1980: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Greybeard
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 15:31

1 Answer 1

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There is the term singulare tantum for a noun which has only a singular form and it is usually applied to mass (or uncountable) nouns. The opposite is plurale tantum, a noun which is used only in plural form (or in particular senses). Most, or possibly all, uncountable nouns can be used as count nouns and can occur in plural form to denote "a type of", "an instance of"; mainly in technical or literary context, but generally not in colloquial speech. You can expect many of them to be rare of course. Proper nouns are normally always in singular form as it represents a single person or an entity.

The term for a noun which appears only in the singular form is singulare tantum (plural: singularia tantum); such as the English words information, dust, and wealth.

Singulare tantum is defined by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary as "Gram. A word having only a singular form; esp. a non-count noun." - Wikipedia


English language is full of exceptions though; and there are exceptions for singularia tantum too, mainly in technical usage.

  • Information has a plural form in legal terminology:

Most senses of the word information are uncountable. The legal sense, referring to court filings, is one that does form a plural. - Wiktionary

  • Wealth has a sense where it is used in plural form also. Here is the sense and a citation listed in OED:

An instance or kind of prosperity; a felicity, blessing. Chiefly plural.

And show The Elder sort how to improve Their Wealths by Neighbour-hood and Love.
a1652     R. Brome Queen & Concubine iii. ii. 47 in Five New Playes (1659)

  • Dust appears in plural form in a technical context about the inspection of mines and coal dust. OED adds that dust is rarely in plural and provides the citation as below:

Of the whole of the dusts tested, that from the Albion Colliery..excelled all others in violence and sensitiveness to explosion.
1894     Daily News 26 June 8/3


When I check the plural form of an uncountable noun or an abstract noun (e.g Judaisms, egotisms, furnitures, electricities, moneys, sugars etc.) in OED, there is always a plural form within a sense or an example; where it can be rare, technical, literary, dialectal or regional. Here is an example with egotisms from OED:

The nature of journals renders egotisms unavoidable.
1753    J. Hanway Hist. Acct. Brit. Trade Caspian Sea

OED even has examples with newses and a news within the sense "As a count noun: a piece or item of news" but adds that it is now chiefly Caribbean and Indian English.

‘This town’, he said, ‘is like a graveyard with walking pus-eaten corpses, and fat maggots jumping from one corpse to the next, looking for newses.’
1978     T. Murphy Crucial Week in Life Grocer's Assistant

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    Excellent answer, but I have to say in: Over the last decade, I have been trying to put some content into the black box of "institutions" that, it is increasingly agreed, provides the basic reasons for the differing wealths of nations, I'm inclined to agree with the author that plural wealths is better than singular. Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 18:23

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