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What is the Plural of Hippopotamus?

plural of hippopotamus

The word ‘hippopotamus‘ is not only intriguing for its zoological significance but also for its linguistic charm. Predominantly known for its association with the large, mostly herbivorous, semi-aquatic mammals native to sub-Saharan Africa, ‘hippopotamus’ is a word that often piques the interest of language learners and enthusiasts alike. Its plural form, like many words derived from Greek, follows a unique pattern that sets it apart from the more straightforward pluralization rules in English.

The Singular and Plural of Hippopotamus


The word ‘hippopotamus’ comes from ancient Greek, where ‘hippos’ means ‘horse‘ and ‘potamos’ means ‘river’, thus ‘river horse. In English, the plural can be formed in two ways: the Anglicized version ‘hippopotamuses’ and the classic Greek form ‘hippopotami. Both plural forms are correct, but ‘hippopotami’ is often preferred in more formal or scientific contexts.


Understanding Hippopotamus

Definition of Hippopotamus

A hippopotamus, often shortened to 'hippo', is a large, mostly herbivorous mammal native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is characterized by its barrel-shaped torso, enormous mouth and teeth, nearly hairless body, stubby legs, and tremendous size.

Usage of Hippopotamus

The word is predominantly used in zoological and ecological contexts. It’s also found in cultural references, like children’s literature, symbolizing various attributes from territorial aggression to comical laziness.

Use of Hippopotamus in Sentences

  1. Singular Usage: “The lone hippopotamus emerged from the river at dusk to graze on the grasslands.”
  2. Plural Usage (Hippopotamuses): “A group of hippopotamuses is often a spectacular sight for safari-goers in the African savannah.”
  3. Plural Usage (Hippopotami): “The biologist specialized in the study of hippopotami and their role in river ecosystems.”
  4. Descriptive: “The bellowing of the hippopotamus echoed across the water, warning others of its presence.”
  5. Cultural Reference: “In the story, the playful hippopotamus loved to dance in the moonlight.”

Common Mistakes and Confusions

  • Hippopotamuses vs. Hippopotami: Confusion arises over which plural form to use. ‘Hippopotamuses’ aligns with regular English pluralization rules, while ‘hippopotami’ follows the Greek origin of the word. Both are correct, but context dictates preference.
  • Mispronunciation: The word’s length and unusual combination of phonemes can lead to mispronunciation, particularly with the plural forms.
  • Spelling Errors: The singular and plural forms are often misspelled due to their complexity and Greek origin.

Commonly Asked Questions

  • Is ‘Hippopotamuses’ or ‘Hippopotami’ the Correct Plural?
    Both are correct. ‘Hippopotamuses’ adheres to standard English pluralization, while ‘hippopotami’ stays true to the word’s Greek roots.
  • How Do You Pronounce ‘Hippopotami’?
    It is pronounced as hip-po-pot-uh-my.
  • Can ‘Hippos’ be Used as a Plural Form?
    Yes, ‘hippos’ is an acceptable colloquial plural form of ‘hippopotamus’.


The plural of ‘hippopotamus’ presents a fascinating example of how language evolves and accommodates words from diverse origins. Whether one opts for ‘hippopotamuses’ or the more classically rooted ‘hippopotami’, understanding and using these forms correctly enriches our linguistic skills and appreciation for the diversity of English vocabulary.

Historical Usage and Ngram Analysis

What is the plural of hippopotamus?

The plural of hippopotamus can be “hippopotamuses” or “hippopotami.”

Which plural form is correct?

Technically, the Latin plural “hippopotami” is an error. However, common usage has made it an acceptable form alongside “hippopotamuses.”

What is the more commonly used plural form?

“Hippopotamuses” is more commonly used and adheres to the standard rules for forming plurals.

Is there another term used for multiple hippopotamuses?

In informal writing, some people use the shortened form “hippos” to refer to multiple hippopotamuses.

Why is there confusion over the plural of hippopotamus?

The confusion arises from the erroneously assigned Latin plural “hippopotami,” which grew in popularity due to its funny sound. However, native English speakers are more inclined to use “hippopotamuses” as it follows the standard rules for forming plurals.

Which plural form is commonly used in scientific writing?

In scientific writing, the Latin plural “hippopotami” is commonly used.

What is the preferred plural form in general usage?

In general usage, “hippopotamuses” is more prevalent.

Is there a shortened form used for multiple hippopotamuses?

Yes, the shortened form “hippos” is widely used in informal writing to refer to multiple hippopotamuses.

How has the usage of plural forms for “hippopotamus” evolved over time?

Historical analysis shows that “hippopotami” was once the preferred form but has gradually given way to “hippopotamuses” and “hippos” in both scholarly and everyday language.

Is the Latin plural still commonly used in scholarly texts?

Yes, the Latin plural “hippopotami” is still commonly used in scholarly texts.

What plural forms are more prevalent in everyday language?

In everyday language, “hippopotamuses” and the shortened form “hippos” are more commonly used.

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith, writer at, blends creativity with insight, exploring technology, culture, and psychology. With a background in English Literature, she crafts engaging stories inspired by nature and urban life. Outside writing, she enjoys exploring and continuous learning.View Author posts

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