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What is the plural of Kraken, the sea monster? It is a word not listed in any dictionary.

Issues:

  • The word has a Teutonic feel and so might be inflected like German plurals, so 'Kraken' (a null plural)
  • The word is now part of English and should be pluralized exactly like all other normal English words: 'Krakens'.
  • If the word came from Greek mythology, to be true to ancient Greek, the plural would be 'Kraka', 'Krakagma', or 'Krakatoa'.
  • They could be conjugated like sheep, fish, and deer, or like like lions, tigers, and bears.
  • They (whichever plural is used) don't exist.
  • Not existing doesn't stop people from making up names or from being styled grammatically.
  • There is only one Kraken so there is no need to ever talk about more than one.
  • Not having more than one doesn't stop people from imagining a second or from being styled grammatically.
  • It is a word listed in a dictionary:

    kraken noun kra·​ken | \ ˈkrä-kən \ plural krakens or kraken : a fabulous Scandinavian sea monster

So, of

The Kraken were released

or

The Krakens were released

which is it?


Side question: what is the term of venery (collective term) for Kraken? A school of Kraken? A herd of Kraken? A catastrophe of Kraken?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Janus Bahs Jacquet, JJJ, GEdgar, Jason Bassford, Cascabel Apr 5 at 18:57

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    "It is a word not listed in any dictionary". To the contrary, OED gives: "1771 C. Douglas in Philos. Trans. 1770 (Royal Soc.) 60 41 Enquiry..as to the existence of the aquatic animals, called Kraakens." [emphasis mine] So in addition to your own dictionary citation, the OED citation makes the premise of your question unclear. – Mark Beadles Apr 4 at 15:05
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    I'm very confused. You start your question out with "It is a word not listed in any dictionary." and then a few sentences later you directly contradict yourself by saying "It is a word listed in a dictionary". Which is it? And moreover, why does the Merriam-Webster assertion that both "kraken" and "krakens" are acceptable not answer your question? – Jess Apr 4 at 15:07
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    Krakatoa!? So the explosion in Indonesia in 1883 was a mating ritual or something? – Andrew Leach Apr 4 at 15:15
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    What's the issue? You've answered your own question in the question. Merriam-Webster gives both Kraken and Krakens. Your question should end here. Moreover, Many English words follow this exact pattern. Do you disagree with M-W? – Lordology Apr 4 at 15:52
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    The point about the Greek endings (apart from somehow ending up in an Indonesian island) seem rather redundant since kraken is not a Greek word – in fact, there are no Greek noun declensions which contain -en as a possible ending, and kraken simply cannot be a Greek word. @HotLicks You would, however, say “this kraken”, since Norwegian double-marks deictics with definite forms. And the definite plural would of course be krakene. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 4 at 18:35
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There are, in general, two ways to form plurals of foreign words in English: to use English rules, or to uses the rules of the original language. This gives us two choices and we have to choose between them.

By English rules, there is no dispute that the plural is Krakens.

To determine the original form, we first have to determine the original language, which commenters on this site, and online references, agree is Norwegian. The commenters that have knowledge of Norwegian have pointed out that Kraken is a definite form. Unfortunately anyone with no knowledge of North Germanic languages will be stuck at this point, so I shall try to explain. Originally, i.e. in Old Norse, there were two equivalent ways of using the definite article. I am not going to give an example in Old Norse for a word that did not exist in Old Norse, but it is as if you could say either en Krake or Kraken, interchangeably, to mean "the Kraken". (And yes, Krake is the original singular.) As Old Norse developed into Modern Norwegian, the article coalesced with the ending of the word to give what they now call the definite form. Thus we have

Norwegian   English  
Krake       Kraken  
Kraken      the Kraken  
Kraker      Krakens  
Krakene     the Krakens

although this does vary by dialect. So, since Kraken is not the Norwegian for English Kraken, it is rather difficult to use Norwegian as a model for the English plural!

So how did this error occur? Clearly the main problem is that most English speakers do not speak Norwegian, but we can point to something more specific. It is quite normal to fail to recognise an article in another language. The most common example of this is the large number of words in English that begin with al- that come from Arabic, where al is simply Arabic for "the". No one ever attempts to use Arabic plurals for these words and it is obvious why. Anyone who can say the alcohols clearly does not know what al means, and can thus hardly be expected to know what the correct Arabic plural is.

Thus there is no satisfactory way to use a Norwegian plural, so we had better stick to Krakens. There is certainly no logic behind the use of Kraken as the plural of itself. This may have come about from people trying to use their knowledge of German to work out the plural.

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    So what do I do with all these kroner? – Hot Licks Apr 5 at 0:27
  • Thank you, @HotLicks for an excellent example of what the plural would be if the singular were Krake! The reason the mistake has occurred with Kraken and not with krone is presumably because Kraken is usually definite whereas we usually talk about money using indefinite forms. (And the complexity of how to say specifically "these kroner" in Norwegian is taking things a bit far, perhaps. – David Robinson Apr 5 at 0:38
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Oxford dictionary defines Kraken and uses the plural of Kraken in an example sentence,

‘Dragons, krakens, giant serpents, griffins, hippogriffs, ogres, evil giants, hydras, and beasts that bore no name at all were among the forces.’

Citation from the book: The Journey to Krakens Cave By Sheridan Injeeli uses the plural form Krakens.

The spell was supposed to grant a wish of any desire, when the Kraken passed away, it's skull was left behind, Legend has it that the skull was located and hidden in the Krakens cave.

Also, there are multiple books using the plural form as Krakens.


On your auxiliary question: herd of Krakens or group of Krakens. I'll say herd of Krakens can be said as- Squad of Krakens on the premises that a giant squid was misunderstood as a kraken- a mythical creature. Description of Kraken is given by Erik Pontoppidan.

From etymonline,

The popular notion of the kraken dates back at least to the time of Pontoppidan (1698-1764), who wrote a description of it. One of the giant squids, as a cephalopod of the genus Architeuthis, might furnish a reasonable basis for the myth.

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According to Merriam-Webster's there are two plural forms:

krakens or kraken.

But the graph gives only the first form.

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    Google NGrams is notoriously a difficult tool to use properly. Consider choosing the context differently. – Mitch Apr 4 at 15:47
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    You’re comparing apples to apples and a verb. When you include were on the other side too neither of them show any results in ngram – Laurel Apr 4 at 16:59
  • If you ditch "were" from your search terms, you'll find that there are results for both the singular and plural forms. – Chappo Apr 8 at 5:22
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The OP says:

Side question: what is the term of venery (collective term) for Kraken? A school of Kraken? A herd of Kraken? A catastrophe of Kraken?

My answer addresses this part of the OP's question.

Dictionary.com defines kraken as:

a legendary sea monster causing large whirlpools off
the coast of Norway. (emphasis added.)

Thus, the term of venery should be:

A turbulence of krakens.

A whirlpool is an example of turbulent flow. See the picture at Wikipedia, whirlpool. Several whirlpools formed by several kraken close together would be even more turbulent.

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