Friday, October 2, 2009

The Correct Plural of Codex

I've seen it wrong too many times. Time for some prescriptive smackdown. People write codexes, codici, codi, and all manner of linguistic blasphemies. The correct plural of codex is codices. That is all.

Source: Merriam-Webster's dictionary.

*Post Edit*  Please don't recite the crazy Latin rules for plurals.  I am fully aware of them and if we were living in Imperial Rome you would be totally correct on the different declensions.  However, in this case codex is a loanword, and as a result when we're speaking English the correct plural is codices.  GW tends to say codexes which is technically wrong but I'll survive that misuse.

While we're on the subject, the correct plural of octopus is not octopi.  It is octopuses.  Octopus comes from Greek, and the -i ending is Latin.  If you want to get really technical the correct plural is octopodes but nobody uses it.


  1. To be strictly correct with Latin declention you have seven cases to determine the form.

    Codex - Nominative singular - 'There is a Codex on the shelf.'
    Codeces - Nominative plural - 'There are two Codices on the shelf'
    Codecis - Genitive - 'the Codicis FAQ'
    Codeci - Dative - 'I gave the Codici to him'
    and some other stuff I don't really remember.

    I just say Codexes though ;)

  2. You are totally correct for the Latin language. I studied Latin in my youth and that's one of the things I remember.

    However, in the English language the plural is codices, just as the plural of matrix is matrices.

  3. I used this post as inspiration for my use of the word. Truth be told though.. I think I've been spelling it codicies... :(

  4. There were MANY examples of the plural for the word CODEX:

    co·dex (kdks)
    n. pl. co·di·ces (kd-sz, kd-)
    A manuscript volume, especially of a classic work or of the Scriptures.
    [Latin cdex, cdic-, tree trunk, wooden tablet, book, variant of caudex, trunk.]
    Word History: Latin cdex, the source of our word, is a variant of caudex, a wooden stump to which petty criminals were tied in ancient Rome, rather like our stocks. This was also the word for a book made of thin wooden strips coated with wax upon which one wrote. The usual modern sense of codex, "book formed of bound leaves of paper or parchment," is due to Christianity. By the first century b.c. there existed at Rome notebooks made of leaves of parchment, used for rough copy, first drafts, and notes. By the first century a.d. such manuals were used for commercial copies of classical literature. The Christians adopted this parchment manual format for the Scriptures used in their liturgy because a codex is easier to handle than a scroll and because one can write on both sides of a parchment but on only one side of a papyrus scroll. By the early second century all Scripture was reproduced in codex form. In traditional Christian iconography, therefore, the Hebrew prophets are represented holding scrolls and the Evangelists holding codices.
    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.



    CODEC: 1st definition: A codec is a device or computer program capable of encoding and/or decoding a digital data stream or signal.

    2nd definition: A codec encodes a data stream or signal for transmission, storage or encryption, or decodes it for playback or editing on a computer, digital camera or other electronic device.

    AND THE PLURAL IS __________________??????????

    Nonlinear Optics for High-Speed Digital Information Processing
    D. Cotter, R. J. Manning, K. J. Blow, A. D. Ellis, A. E. Kelly, D. Nesset, I. D. Phillips, A. J. Poustie, and D. C. Rogers
    Science 19 November 1999: 1523-1528. [DOI:10.1126/science.286.5444.1523]


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