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The Latin et cetera, abbreviated etc., is often used at the end of an incomplete, inclusive list of items when it is clear that there are more items than can be enumerated conveniently and there is no ambiguity about what the omitted items are. For example: "Joseph's amazing technicolor dreamcoat was red, yellow, green, brown, scarlet, etc."

Is there an equivalent abbreviation that would serve a similar purpose when the list is exclusive? "My mother hit your mother in the nose. What color blood came out? Was it red, yellow, green, brown, scarlet, ...?"

I have always just rewritten the sentence or written out the full "or something else," but the lack of complementary abbreviation to etc. has always bothered me.

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    There is no standard "abbreviation" for or the rest. I see no real symmetry between etc. (and other similar things) and or something else. Trying to "force" this by drafting in the word "rest" in both cases is simply misleading. Besides which there's no particular reason why any linguistic element should have a symmetrical partner accross any particular semantic axis. Voting to close as "too localised". Jan 26, 2012 at 0:01
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    I don't understand the extreme downvoting on this question. Just because it might not have an answer doesn't make it a bad question. It certainly can't be accused of "not showing any research effort", or of being "unclear" or "not useful".
    – Marthaª
    Jan 31, 2012 at 16:57
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    Upvoted, and calling for people to widthdraw their close votes. It's a valid question with a genuine (if obscure) answer provided by @Drew.
    – slim
    Feb 3, 2012 at 16:14
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    @Kitḫ: no, he's asking for an expression or abbreviation to use in English.
    – Marthaª
    Feb 3, 2012 at 16:19
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    @slim: unfortunately, close votes can't be withdrawn. Hopefully, they'll age away before some fifth idiot jumps on the bandwagon, though.
    – Marthaª
    Feb 3, 2012 at 16:20

4 Answers 4

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Aut Cetera, abbreviated as autc. Anologous to Et cetera, it means "or so on"

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    +1 for being plausible, but worth noting that hardly anyone would understand it if you used it.
    – slim
    Feb 3, 2012 at 16:13
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    Or possibly "vel cetera"?
    – wfaulk
    Jul 31, 2015 at 22:43
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Another appropriate phrase may be "vel similia", abbreviated "vel sim".

References:

http://www.loebclassics.com/page/abbreviations/common-abbreviations

https://latinforaddicts.wordpress.com/tag/vel-vs-aut/

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  • What would be the negative of "vel sim"? For instance, "I don't like dogs, cats nor the like". Aug 22, 2018 at 12:36
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The OED definition for et cetera says in part:

As phrase: And the rest, and so forth, and so on (cf. Greek καὶ τὰ λοιπά, German und so weiter), indicating that the statement refers not only to the things enumerated, but to others which may be inferred from analogy.

The "inferred from analogy" part is the important one. I'm not aware of any prohibitions against using etc. to mean "or so on" rather than "and so on." Your meaning will be clear regardless.

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The Latin abbreviation et al. (short for et alii, which means and others) is used to indicate additional items which are not as important, especially when talking about authors or other people.

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    Note that it doesn't work in the OP's example: Was it red, yellow, green, brown, scarlet, et al? That would be asking whether the blood was all those colors and others, instead of or others. So the proper Latin would be aut alii. Don't use it though.
    – Daniel
    Jan 26, 2012 at 1:37
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    I usually think of et al. as standing for et alia in the neuter plural. If I were talking about young mothers, I suppose it might even be et aliae. Similarly, people don’t use inter alii; they use inter alia.
    – tchrist
    Jan 26, 2012 at 2:56

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