One of my friends argues with me that the plural for etiquette is etiquettes and for fish it is fishes. I was taught since ever that etiquette is plural as fish does. To support his statement he showed some references of word "fishes" in novels and magazines, however, he couldn't find "etiquettes" anywhere that I would accept (www.morewords.com/word/etiquettes and wiktionary). The disagreement remained because in his argument, he says the word came from french where it is measurable/countable, so should be in English. My argument is that it is just a derived word and does not mean the exact same thing, etiquette in English is not countable/measurable. Or is it?

If he is correct, may I please be provided with some solid references?

  • Your question may be general reference (eg, wiktionary shows etiquettes as the plural form of etiquette, and so does websters-dictionary-online.net), or may be not-a-real-question, as you have given no indication of the meaning of "anywhere that I would accept". – James Waldby - jwpat7 May 5 '12 at 7:19
  • edited the question to reflect sources that i didn't wish to accept. – Fr0zenFyr May 5 '12 at 7:38
  • Etiquette is not plural; it's a mass noun. You can say "the fish are different in the very deep sea", but you cannot say "etiquette are different in Japan". You have to say "the etiquette is different in Japan", or "the etiquettes are different in Japan". – Peter Shor Nov 28 '14 at 14:07

Etiquettes certainly exists. Thackeray used it (‘A little place with its pompous ways, small etiquettes and punctilios’) and so have some other authors, but there can be very few occasions on which it would be needed now.

Much the same applies to fishes. It is found in for example, in the King James Bible: 'five loaves, and two fishes', but the normal plural now is the same as the singular.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thank you everyone for your answers and all the examples. Now, I believe that neither of us were wrong, it may be said that my knowledge is more correct on present day's english and he was right about the general english language. Pretty amusing!! @Barrie: Thank you so much for the references, especially on 'etiquettes'. – Fr0zenFyr May 5 '12 at 10:26

Your friend has provided an excellent example. However, he's wrong about both etiquette as well as fish.

There are fish in the bag.
but: There are fishes in the aquarium.

You must learn every aspect of etiquette.
but: Societies/ cultures may have etiquettes widely different from each other.

Here's why:

All the fish in the bag are of the same species; those in the aquarium are not.

Etiquette is 'behavior/ conduct' comprising of various elements and suitable for a vareity of contexts. This cannot have a plural form. However, etiquette is also an aspect of culture (more of an expectation). This is a thing that can have a plural form.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    The same applies to "people/peoples" as well. – Bravo May 5 '12 at 9:25
  • @Shyam: Yeah you're right. – Kris May 5 '12 at 9:46
  • 2
    I think your answer is basically right, but somewhat confused. "Etiquette" is a mass noun, and "fish" a word whose normal plural is the same as its singular. Most such words can take a plural when the meaning is "kinds of x" or "distinct populations of x". So the point about etiquette is not that it is an aspect of culture but that if you say "etiquettes" you are be talking about multiple systems of etiquette. Continued in next comment – Colin Fine May 5 '12 at 18:36
  • 2
    Similarly, I might use "fishes" to mean "kinds of fish" or "species of fish"; but not to mean "fish of various kinds", which is what your comment suggests. It's not that the fish in the aquarium are of different species, it is that the different species are represented in the aquarium. (I'm not sure that I would use "fishes" even then - I think I would say "kinds of fish" - but that's a different point). – Colin Fine May 5 '12 at 18:39
  • 1
    As the quote from Thackeray in another answer shows, "etiquette" has also historically been used to describe individual behaviours and conducts, so the plural could also mean a number of such small traditional behaviours (but not the whole system). – Wlerin Aug 24 '14 at 4:14

'Etiquette' obviously refers to a body of recommendations on modes of behavior. It certainly does not refer to a singular, stand alone point of reference. Therefore,the need to pluralize this word does not arise. If there is a need to refer to a set of points that can be categorized as 'etiquette', the sensible thing to do is, refer to 'rules of etiquette' or something similar.

| improve this answer | |

There is a word that says 'manners ' instead of manner in plural. However, in French, 'etiquette' is regarded as a non count noun and should be so in English. There is no plural to the word. Or else, simply say 'types of etiquette' for plural.

| improve this answer | |
  • 4
    Just because something is uncountable in one language, that doesn't mean it has to be in another. – Matt E. Эллен May 15 '12 at 12:12
  • @Priya I agree with Matt here. I thought that the word means different things in both the languages, although the English usage was derived from French. – Fr0zenFyr May 16 '12 at 12:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.