"Plethora" is frequently used to express an abundance of something in a positive sense.

My understanding of the word is an overabundance or "too-muchness"

Is it a case that the word has changed meaning as it has come into common usage or that it is simply being mis-used?

  • 1
    It is neither positive nor negative in connotation. It simply means "a whole bunch". – Hot Licks Jul 12 '15 at 0:04

I have often seen the term used with a negative connotation. According to OLD plethora is a synonym of excess and means:

  • an amount that is greater than is needed or can be used.

Also its etymology suggests a negative connotation:,


  • 1540s, a medical word for "excess of body fluid," from Late Latin plethora, from Greek plethore "fullness," from plethein "be full" (see pleio-). Figurative meaning "too-muchness, overfullness in any respect" is first recorded 1700.


According to the Grammarist, however, the term does not necessarily imply a negative connotation:


  • is an overabundance. The excess here is key; in traditional usage of the word, a plethora is too much of something. Today, however, the word is often used as a synonym of plenty or many, which imply abundance but not necessarily overabundance.


  • But decision science has shown that people faced with a plethora of choices are apt to make no decision at all. [Daily Beast]

  • The plethora of mixed motives for the west’s engagement with the Arab world make doing the right thing harder in the Middle East and North Africa. [The Guardian]

  • I spent a few hours Monday on the ministry’s website, and was nearly driven mad by the plethora of acronyms. [Globe and Mail]

  • Merriam-Webster gives as an example <a biology textbook that is helpfully illustrated with a plethora of excellent illustrations>. There's no way that that could be interpreted as a negative connotation. – Hot Licks Jul 12 '15 at 0:13
  • @HotLicks - I was finishing my answer, see my edit.Thanks for your quick downvote. :) – user66974 Jul 12 '15 at 0:14

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