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I recently saw someone use the word "elegancy" for the first time in forever, and it set me wondering about (and wandering about) why the synonym "elegance" appears to be the preferred noun. I searched the web for some kind of standard treatment of the difference, and I could find none. A [structurally] similar pair of nouns, "lenience" vs. "leniency", seems to find the "-y" ending to be favored.

Are there standard phrases where "elegancy" would be the preferred usage (similar to how judicial applications seem to strongly favor "leniency")?

  • Elegancy has a plural, and elegance is usually uncountable. So if you can find a sentence where you can use a plural, then I suppose you could use elegancies. – MorganFR May 23 '16 at 15:19
  • Elegancy had its heyday in the 17th century. Nowadays it is inelegant. – TRomano May 23 '16 at 18:32
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Merriam-Webster Unabridged notes that elegancy is "usually used in plural."

While elegance has a perfectly valid plural (Macmillan states that the noun form is uncountable, while M-W Unabridged does not), choosing one over the other is likely a matter of which sounds more mellifluous in a particular circumstance:

I flatter myself that we've always preserved the elegances, the finer graces — Elmer Davis

...elegancies such as silk, porcelain, fans, and screens — Victor Purcell

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