14

Busses, or perhaps buses

The OED states that both "buses" and "busses" are acceptable plural forms of "bus". Is one generally preferred over the other?

  • 5
    Beware: busses could be the plural of buss rather than bus. If you don't know, buss means kiss. – GEdgar Nov 16 '11 at 1:18
  • 3
    Or the present tense (3rd person) of to bus. – Taj Moore Nov 16 '11 at 1:49
  • 1
    "The Motor Bus" may have something to say on the matter. – lonesomeday Nov 16 '11 at 10:26
  • Related: Plural of 'yes' – sumelic Mar 10 '17 at 5:51
  • @GEdgar The usage of buss as "to kiss" is essentially archaic today; nobody uses the word in that manner. – Ian Kemp Nov 21 '18 at 6:01
20

To be more precise, the citations in the OED’s entry for bus include 2 instances of busses and 9 of buses. In its own commentary, the OED uses buses. The British National Corpus records 1438 instances of buses and 10 of busses. The figures in the Corpus of Contemporary American English are 5139 and 116. I think that means you’re in good company if you use buses.

17

As others have pointed out, buses is far more common than busses.

But I see no mention of the fact that in recent decades, busses is almost exclusively restricted to the computer hardware context, where a bus is a subsystem that transfers data between components inside a computer. For reasons that escape me, buses rarely occurs in the computer context.

EDIT: I'll just add that I worked for decades on computerised systems within the UK public transport industry. Until this question came up I don't think it ever occurred to me that anyone might switch or merge what I'd always thought of as two completely distinct words. But I did sometimes wonder why the computer singular wasn't always spelled buss (as sometimes it was).

  • I think the name of both the vehicle and the electronic interconnect are derived from "omnibus"; the electronic term relates more strongly to "omnibus" than to the vehicle. – supercat Jul 15 '16 at 23:05
  • @supercat: The full OED has its first cite for omnibus as 1828. The first buss [sic] is only 4 years later. Then there's apostrophized 'bus in 1845, followed by busses in 1851. They don't have plain bus until 1887. When it comes to the electronics use, they've got buss wires in 1887 and copper 'bus' bars in 1888 - under their one-word entry busbar, where OED specifically say compare slightly later omnibus bar. – FumbleFingers Jul 15 '16 at 23:25
8

Google NGram Viewer shows that buses is more popular than busses.

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  • 9
    For those concerned about Napoleonic bus stations: busses also meant kisses. – TimLymington Nov 15 '11 at 22:36
6

You will find buses is more popular than busses. Similarly, omnibuses was more popular than omnibusses

3

OALD and CALD each lists the plural of bus as buses but adds that busses is also used in AmE. This agrees with MW which lists both forms. I would go for buses which applies to both variants currently.

protected by user140086 Dec 19 '16 at 15:51

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