There is something that is puzzling me: how does etymology explains why the letter E has became a representative of plural?

Tooth - Teeth
Foot - Feet
Man - Men
Woman - Women
Goose - Geese

I understand that some of them can be explained by I mutation, but is this valid for every o/e word or is there a deeper explanation?


there is a theory that, way back in the days of proto-indo-european, this, (and, generally, the changing of vowels but not so much consonants, save voicing or [not] aspirating) was the norm for pluralization.


this book, 'the horse, the wheel, and language', has also been a very interesting and enlightening source on the subject, if you want to go back that far, which i would advise, if you want [the beginning to] a very in depth answer to this question: http://www.amazon.com/The-Horse-Wheel-Language-Bronze-Age/dp/069114818X

  • Thanks for the info! I like this kind of literature, so - following your suggestion - I bought the book! Thanks! – Rafa Borges Apr 13 '15 at 10:37
  • Germanic umlaut does not date back to Proto-Indo-European. – herisson Jul 31 '16 at 5:47

As Janus Bahs Jacquet said in a comment, all of the plural forms you list with "e" (teeth, feet, men, women, geese) are due to i-mutation. This is a relatively recent phenomenon that results from sound changes that occurred in Germanic languages. It does not date back to Proto-Indo-European. Proto-Indo-European also had some complicated ways of forming plurals, but I don't think any of the irregular or unusual plural forms from Proto-Indo-European have been inherited in English.

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