This question is related to the plural of "octopus" (yet another ancient Greek loanword animal):

What is the plural of "mantis"?

Oxford Dictionaries suggests "mantis" or "mantises".

Merriam Webster and Dictionary.com suggest "mantises" or "mantes".

This page from the Iowa State University Entomology Department suggests "mantids" (emphasis mine).

Praying mantids (preferred plural form of mantis) have never been numerous in Iowa and historically they were only common in the far southeastern corner of the state.

Personally, I use a mixture of "mantises" and "mantes" and find the usage of "mantids" strange, but what is the most etymologically correct / most recommended plural for the animal?

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    If I search Google Books for "praying mantes" -"mantis" (excluding the singular form for more tightly-focused results) I get just 596 hits. That's compared to 9880 hits for "praying mantises" -"mantis", and given language change tends to discard irregular inflexions in favour of regular ones, I'd say that's definitely the way to go unless you just want to look [pseudo-] erudite. – FumbleFingers Oct 26 '15 at 16:01
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    (But there are 5780 hits for "praying mantids" -"mantis", so nobody could say you were wrong for using that version.) – FumbleFingers Oct 26 '15 at 16:04
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    Mantises, mantes and mantids are all correct plural forms 'for the animal', though mantids is a different word rather than an inflexion of the singular. Confusingly, according to AHDEL (@A.P.'s answer), mantid is synonymous with mantis, but also is a hyponym in other usage. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 26 '15 at 16:26
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    Yeah, basically "mantids" is the cheater's way out. – Hot Licks Oct 26 '15 at 20:14
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    I've never seen or heard the word mantid before, but I immediately understood it to mean ‘an animal in the Mantida(e) family/class/genus/thingy’ in the same way that an arachnid is an animal in the Arachnida class. I would take that statement of mantids being the “preferred plural of mantis” with a rather large grain of salt—they're obviously different words, and whoever wrote that would appear not to know the difference between family-based names and normal species names… which is very surprising for an entomology department. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 25 '17 at 22:34

Mantids is not plural for mantis, but for mantid, which is another term for mantis:

mantis

man·tis (mănʹtĭs)

n. pl. man·tis·es or man·tes (-tēz) Any of various predatory insects of the family Mantidae, primarily tropical but including a few Temperate Zone species, usually pale green and having two pairs of walking legs and powerful grasping forelimbs. The mantis feeds on live insects, including others of its own kind. Also called mantid.

(American Heritage Dictionary)

Evidently, mantid can also have another, more specific meaning:

  1. See mantis.
  2. A mantis in the family Mantidae.

In summation: the correct plural for mantis is mantes or mantises, which is what you use. The correct plural for mantid is mantids.

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    Everything I can easily find (including your links) suggests mantid is simply an alternative term for mantis. Where does that "another, more specific meaning" come from? – FumbleFingers Oct 26 '15 at 16:08
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    I suppose I must admit my easily there was a bit of a stretch. Going the extra mile (to Wikipedia, duh! :) I find Technically, however, "mantid" refers only to members of the Mantidae family, and not the 14 remaining families of mantises, so your point is quite correct. @Edwin - the signifcance of AHDEL escapes me (and I did search online - obviously my Google-Fu powers are weak today! :) – FumbleFingers Oct 26 '15 at 16:50
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    You've opened a real can of annelids now. '[t]echnically'? What's that supposed to mean hereabouts? – Edwin Ashworth Oct 26 '15 at 16:56
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    OK I've never seen "mantes" written, I'm curious though if the word mantis has the required Latin etymology to be pluralized like this, as the word seems to come from the Greek. – James Oct 26 '15 at 16:58
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    @James: it looks like it: en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki//μάντις#Ancient_Greek (Greek plural is "manteis," which would be Latinized as "mantes"). – sumelic Oct 26 '15 at 17:44

As a practical matter, you may be interested in this Ngram chart tracking the relative frequency of praying mantises (blue line), praying mantes (red line), and praying mantids (green line) in publications contained in the Google Books database, from the years 1820 through 2005:

The chart suggests that mantes was originally the preferred plural—but that it is now the least common of the three plural forms, by a considerable margin. I looked at a number of the Google Books matches for "praying mantes" that are associated with this chart and couldn't spot anything obvious that the texts using "praying mantes" have in common, other than their choice of plural.

Until I read this question, I was not aware that mantes was a plural option at all. My personal experience, living in various parts of the United States and Canada, roughly corroborates the data in the Ngram chart above: I have heard and read "praying mantises" frequently and "praying mantids" occasionally—but "praying mantes" never (until now).

protected by tchrist Jan 25 '17 at 22:43

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