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Singular "analysis" becomes plural "analyses". The e has a long sound because otherwise the two would sound the same. This seems to be a pretty solid rule for nouns whose singular form ends in "is" and plural form changes the "i" to an "e". Some people do something similar to any singular noun that ends in "s". For example, "synapse" becomes "synapses". I pronounce "synapses" SIN-ap-suhs. Some people pronounce it SIN-ap-sees. Please tell me I'm right.

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    there's synapse, whose plural is synapses, pronounced with a short vowel (sɪs); but there's also synapsis, whose plural is also synapses, but pronounced with a long vowel (siz)
    – msam
    Apr 17, 2014 at 15:12
  • @msam I had to look it up, I thought for a moment you meant synopsis. (which has the plural synopses) :)
    – oerkelens
    Apr 17, 2014 at 17:37
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    Is your question (a) whether the plural of synapsis can be pronounced both ways or (b) whether the rule you propose is correct?
    – dg99
    Apr 17, 2014 at 23:47
  • If enough people pronounce it that way, well that's the pronunciation. And we aren't generally in the business of validating peeves here. Apr 18, 2014 at 6:41
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a peeve rather than accepted usage. Apr 18, 2014 at 6:42

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Although the "es" ending of "analyses" may superficially and coincidentally resemble the standard English plural noun suffixes "-s" and "-es", there is a significant difference in etymology (and a corresponding difference in pronunciation). Far from being an arbitrary emphasis on the "es" syllable at the end of words like "analyses" and "synopses", the pronunciation reflects the Greek origins of the words.

For instance, the word "analysis" is an ancient Latin transliteration of the Ancient Greek "ἀνάλυσις" (analusis), whose nominative plural was "ἀναλύσεις" (analuseis), which was transliterated into Latin as "analyses". The similarity to the "-es" plural noun ending in English (ultimately of Old English origin) is entirely coincidental. According to Merriam-Webster, the long "e" pronunciation of "analyses" is correct (the same is correct for "catalyses", "synopses", and other Greek plurals of this nature).

However, for "synapse" your short "i" pronunciation "SIN-ap-suhs" is correct, for one reason; in this specific circumstance, when the word "synapse" was taken from the transliterated Greek "synapsis", the "is" ending was dropped in favor of an anglicized silent "e" ending. Because this word was fully anglicized, the "-es" ending is the standard English plural noun suffix, and therefore receives the same pronunciation as any other ordinary English plural with "-es". Therefore, for this particular word, your pronunciation is completely correct (and reaffirmed by Merriam-Webster).

Unfortunately, that's not the end to the confusion. That same Greek word, "synapsis", was directly adapted into English, in addition to the modified "synapse". "Synapsis" is a distinct word meaning "the association of homologous chromosomes that is characteristic of the first meiotic prophase", while in contrast "synapse" means "the place where a signal passes from one nerve cell to another". However, the plural of both are spelled "synapses". Because (being a direct transliteration of Greek) the plural of "synapsis" is pronounced with a long "e", confusion with the plural of the much more common word "synapse" doubtless influenced this pronunciation conflation.

In conclusion, "synapses" as the plural of the relatively common word "synapse" is pronounced with a short "i" sound (SIN-ap-suhs). However, "synapses" as the plural of the rare word "synapsis" is pronounced with the long "e" sound (SIN-ap-sees). You are correct, but good luck trying to get people to distinguish between the "synapses" homographs.

For more information, look up "synapse" and "synapsis" in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

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    Association of homologous chromosomes characteristic of the… wow, I'm utterly lost already. What a definition! I'd never heard the word synapsis before, and I actually doubt it's had much influence over the plural of synapse, just by its very obscurity and abstrusity. I think it's just because synapse is still recognisably a Greek (well, learned at least) word and people know that learned plurals in -es usually have a long e, that people analogically pronounce it like that. Apr 18, 2014 at 11:01

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