Clothing items with 2 leg holes are generally plural. Clothing items with 2 arm holes aren’t.

Examples with 2 leg holes: pants, trousers, trunks, knickers.

Examples with 2 arm holes: shirt, pullover, jersey, jacket, vest, waistcoat.

Exceptions: in South Africa, we speak of a swimming costume (trunks in UK – still plural) or speedo. In the UK, usage is speedos, also plural (in Australia, budgie smugglers, note also plural).

Items with one leg hole are not plural: skirt, kilt. Items the are separately made for each appendage don’t count (gloves, shoes, socks): they logically should be plural and can be singular, if you only refer to one of them. Did anyone ever have a pant, a trouser or a trunk (elephants don’t count)?

So: why this distinction? Were leg coverings originally made of discrete items and only later became a single garment?

  • Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/598735/…
    – user 66974
    Nov 22, 2022 at 19:42
  • If you search here for trousers, leggings, etc, you will find many similar questions covering the same ground. And if you look on Wikipedia or in a good encyclopedia of clothes/fashion you will find the history of leggings, trousers, breeches, tights, pants, stockings, and other similar garments. (For some reason SE doesn't have a board dedicated to fashion, so I guess it's understandable to post fashion history questions here; although they might be more on topic in History SE.) The etymology of speedo/speedos is far more recent, as I'm sure you know, but might merit a separate question.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 22, 2022 at 22:51
  • That’s useful for etymology of lower garments; perhaps upper garments simply never started out being referred to in plural form. I can’t think of an English example except where they really are separate pieces like gloves, mittens, etc. Nov 23, 2022 at 6:32


Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.