I was wondering what the singular term for hundreds and thousands was. I believe in the United States these are referred to as sprinkles and a sprinkle makes sense in this case. However a hundred and thousand sounds a bit awkward.

I have attached an image below in case there was any confusion.

hundreds and thousands

  • I can't think that sprinkles is any easier to work with, in language terms, than hundreds and thousands. A sprinkle of sprinkles? What would 'a sprinkle be', a few that were 'sprinkled', or just one? – WS2 Oct 16 '14 at 14:21
  • I would say that the phrase "I ate a sprinkle" would be fine where as with hundreds and thousands there is still trouble. Herein lies my problem! – James Richford Oct 16 '14 at 14:23
  • Not sure what you are asking. Something like I ate a MOLE of sprinkles? – mplungjan Oct 16 '14 at 14:30
  • A mole of sprinkles would definitely be much more than a single one - but I love the attempt :) – James Richford Oct 16 '14 at 14:33
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    Do people actually call sprinkles "hundreds and thousands"? As in "I'd like a donut with hundreds and thousands on it, please."? If so... I guess why would be my question. – Patrick M Oct 16 '14 at 18:55

'Hundreds and thousands' is a plural-form non-singular noun, not having a generally accepted term for the individual element. If you were skilful enough to drop just one, you'd say 'I've dropped one' unless you were feeling whimsical. There are parallels: with confetti, the word 'confetto' exists, but it's probably hardly ever used for the bit-of-paper sense. The singular form 'an oat' is rare.

Mass nouns usually take singular concord (milk is / sand is ...), but may be etically discrete (sand) or non-discrete (milk).

The problem 'discrete referent treated grammatically as having no singular' is discussed in this article by Anna Wierzbicka.

  • So what you're saying is I need to create one? How does a hundron sound? – James Richford Oct 16 '14 at 14:18
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    Billions (of people) have survived without having such a term. In fact, many without the delights of hundreds and thousands. Why do you need to create a term? (Looks like a bacillus to me, but I'd avoid that one.) – Edwin Ashworth Oct 16 '14 at 14:25
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    @EdwinAshworth So what you're saying is hundreds and thousands of people have survived long enough without such a term? – maxp Oct 16 '14 at 15:40
  • I think I'm resigned to the fact that there is no current term for one, I guess I'd like there to be one as I'm personifying these little pieces of sugar too much. That said it will not stop my campaign for them to be individually acknowledged in their own right! Great answer :) – James Richford Oct 16 '14 at 21:36

A single hundreds and thousands is a nonpareil.

Edit: or just a one. Because of course it is.


Oh, I got it. You're going to like this: a lakh:

Google definition of "lahk"

Don't believe me? How about Wikipedia's definition:

A lakh or lac is a unit in the South Asian numbering system equal to one hundred thousand.

Or Merriam-Webster:

lahk: one hundred thousand

Emphasis, of course, on the one :)

  • That doesn't really work. In that case, why not call it a 'mil' (Spanish for 1k) or a 'sen'(Japanese for 1k) or a 'man'(Japanese for 10k)? What the questions is asking is for something in ENGLISH that represents a hundred units, like the Spanish word 'ciento' – J A Terroba Oct 16 '14 at 20:29
  • No, the point is that the units desired is a hundred-thousand: 1e5 (and also that lahk/lac is a nice, short, crisp word). – Dan Bron Oct 16 '14 at 21:24
  • Only it's not an English word. – J A Terroba Oct 17 '14 at 12:48
  • It's English enough to be in English-language dictionaries. – Dan Bron Oct 17 '14 at 12:53
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    @SrJoven I know, I'm suggesting lahk (or, in my preference, lac) for that term. Since the multitude are known as "hundreds and thousands", one might like to refer to a single item as "one hundred thousand". Get it? – Dan Bron Oct 20 '14 at 21:10

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