As et cetera states "and the others" and et alii does "and others", it occurs to me that using etc. would need any specification which makes "the others" clear. I've usually seen times as many etc. as et al. even in the sentences where et al. could do better. Do people usually use etc. instead of et al.?


  • 1
    Etc is usually translated as "and the rest" (="and the remainder of this set which I can't be bothered to enumerate for you") whereas et al means "and others" (="and some similar items but I've no idea how many"). I'm not sure that any objective evidence of usage of one over the other will be easy to find, if it exists at all. But perhaps someone will come up with something.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 9:53
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    Et alii is more often used for a list of people and etc. for things.
    – Martin
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 10:57

2 Answers 2


Don't get hung up on the translation. Etc is an English word, and its Latin origin does not tell you everything about how it is used.

In Latin, cetera means "the rest", or "the other things (in the known or implied collection)". alii means "others", and is masculine plural, so it could apply to any things which happened to be masculine in (grammatical) gender, but in particular would apply to people. "Other things" in Latin would be alia.

In English, etc (read, and occasionally written, as et cetera) means "and so on", or "and other things of that type". Et al. (which is almost always abbreviated that way, even when spoken) usually means "and other people", and is used in referring to academic papers by more than two authors: I don't believe I have ever seen it used in any other way.

The Latin phrase et alia ("and other things") might be used in English, but I don't believe I've ever encountered it - unlike inter alia ("among other things"), which is fairly common in academic English.


the other explanations were of course good as to actual meaning. If you wonder why people use etc. more than et al., I suggest that it is because the majority of people have never heard of et alii. As mentioned, it is most common in scholarly citations, and most people are not scholars. This is to be expected. What bothers me more is the rampant, erroneous, bilateral swapping of e.g. for i.e. — don't get me started on that!

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