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When I learned English, I learned that "luggage" an uncountable noun, meaning the collection of all your bags and suitcases (and/or their contents). From https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/luggage :

luggage (usually uncountable, plural luggages)

  1. (uncountable) The bags and other containers that hold a traveller's belongings.
  2. (uncountable) The contents of such containers.
  3. (countable, nonstandard or obsolete) A specific bag or container holding a traveller's belongings.

Recently I have been noticing it being used more and more for a single large bag used for travel, what I would call "a piece of luggage", or "a bag". First I heard it used this way by my former roommate, who is not a native speaker, but more recently, I have heard it from my girlfriend, who is a native speaker, and I have seen/heard it used this way more and more. To be fair, I learned mostly British English, and I heard it used in this other way in the United States, so maybe it is a regional difference?

Here is an example: https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Hardside-Spinner-Luggage-20-Inch/dp/B071NJ24R9/ :

Hardside spinner luggage for work travel, weekend getaways, or as international carry-on

The change I'm wondering about might not be about countability, but rather about some related property. Here is source which is not an amazon listing: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-carry-on-luggage/ where they say for example:

(as long as you register the luggage within 120 days of purchase, which is easy to do on any smartphone)

Here is a Google Ngram for "a luggage" vs. "piece of luggage", I realize that "a luggage" also finds "a luggage cart", etc. but there is an increased use of it since 1980, and a sharp decline in the use of "piece of luggage" since 2012. https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=a+luggage%2Cpiece+of+luggage&year_start=1800&year_end=2019&corpus=26&smoothing=3

Is this a change that is happening, and what is causing it? Or have I just been wrongly pedantic about the word (I have never corrected anyone, but using "luggage" as a countable noun does sound wrong to me)?

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    I imagine what you're seeing is the consequence of more non-native Anglophones writing in English on the internet (in contexts where there's little if any proofreading). So you're more likely to see references to a software, their equipments, or some luggages. But I seriously doubt many actual native speakers are involved. Nov 30, 2021 at 17:10
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    Does this answer your question? Is "a software" really never correct? Nov 30, 2021 at 17:17
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    Hmm, definition 3 says it is nonstandard (i.e. emerging?) as well as obsolete. So it was used idiomatically as a count noun long ago and possibly in the future. But right now? It's not idiomatic.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 30, 2021 at 17:24
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    There will always be a tiny number of native speakers pushing the boundaries. But trust me - mainstream English isn't about to endorse using words like software, equipment, luggage, furniture as countable nouns. And we're certainly not gonna start treating Amazon product descriptions as "reference examples" epitomising good use of language any time soon! :) Nov 30, 2021 at 17:47
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    Many supposedly non-countable words can be used in countable ways in some contexts to make some distinction -- "so you guys want 3 waters?" at a restaurant, for instance. I find this a little weird if we mean "bags," but I might find it less strange if we were talking about different classes of luggage, for instance.
    – Casey
    Dec 1, 2021 at 8:26

2 Answers 2

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Luggage can be used in the case of "...a single large bag used for travel..." but still remains a collective noun - a group of one. At airport check-ins one is often asked "how much luggage do you have" ("much" here signals an uncountable noun) rather than being asked "how many pieces of luggage do you have" ; the answer can be one bag but not one luggage.

I suspect that this is what has caused luggage to become synonymous with one bag in the ad which you quote, but luggage still remains an uncountable noun. I have never heard a US or UK or New Zealand speaker respond '2 luggages'.

The only way this could accurately checked is by referring to a corpora (but these often lag behind common usage). The Oxford English Dictionary defines the use of "luggage" in plural as indicating an impediment:

In plural. nonce-use. = impedimenta n.
1864 T. Carlyle Hist. Friedrich II of Prussia IV. xv. i. 8 His whole Army with its luggages.

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No. Luggage does not become a countable noun. If it is plural it is still referred to as luggage, not luggages. Just luggage. For the actual answer now. No, 'a luggage' would not be is not becoming commonplace in mainstream English usage. Most people would just say luggage as 'a luggage' would make it hard to understand and luggage is mainly used either plural or singular. So a luggage wouldn't make since in the English mainstream due to it already being known as plural and singular making 'a luggage' not compatible with conversations.

https://www.answers.com/english-language-arts/What_is_the_plural_of_luggage

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  • Please don't spam us with links. Answers should be self-contained and not require us to go haring off looking for a princess in another castle. If there's info we need in your spam link, reproduce it here. Links go dead. As is, this looks like spam. What is your affiliation with that site?
    – tchrist
    Jun 2, 2022 at 18:07
  • @tchrist This is not a spam link. It was a resource to help understand. Next time I'll keep it in mind and I find no fun in spamming people. My family member works on the site so they get paid and I use it if anyone has questions so they understand.
    – Nora Smith
    Jun 2, 2022 at 18:10
  • Welcome to EL&U. Consider reviewing the Help Page on how to write a good answer...answers which are "link-only" are often viewed with suspicion. Jun 2, 2022 at 18:14
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    Hello, Nora. Please have a look at some of the other threads here on the countness/non-countness of nouns-in-context. I think it's largely agreed that (a) it is far clearer to speak of usages ('The two coffees most often used in making the beverages are arabica and robusta' / 'Coffee is my favourite hot drink') rather than nouns being count or non-count, end of story. And that (b) countification and massification certainly take place, and a traditional view could well be outdated. Wiktionary is certainly one of the first dictionaries to endorse such changes. Jun 2, 2022 at 18:17
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    Hi, Nora. I think that your answer is sincere (and not spam). However, it doesn't advance the discussion beyond what the question asker included in the original question above from Wictionary. That is, he knows that English speakers generally treat "luggage" as an uncountable noun, but he wants to know whether "a luggage" is becoming commonplace in mainstream English usage. This isn't really a question about what the "rule" governing the countability of "luggage" is but about whether "a luggage" is an emerging change in mainstream spoken English.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jun 2, 2022 at 18:37

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