The Plural of Syllabus: Syllabi or Syllabuses?

When it comes to the plural of “syllabus,” you may be unsure whether to use “syllabi” or “syllabuses.” Let’s explore the origins and acceptability of both terms.

Both “syllabi” and “syllabuses” are considered correct plurals of the word “syllabus.” The word “syllabus” is derived from New Latin and is likely based on a misunderstanding of an earlier word. It is believed to have come from a misreading of the Greek word “síttybās,” which is a plural form of the word referring to a label on a papyrus roll.

The pluralization of words ending in -us with -i is a common pattern in Latin, which is why both “syllabi” and “syllabuses” are commonly used in English. Examples of Latin-derived terms with multiple plural forms include “octopuses/octopi,” “platypuses/platypi,” “cactuses/cacti,” and “thesauruses/thesauri.

Ultimately, both “syllabi” and “syllabuses” are considered correct, so the best choice may be to use the term preferred by your professor or to simply refer to them as “course outlines.

The Singular and Plural of Syllabus

Singular Form:

  • Syllabus: A document outlining the content and structure of a course or training program.

Plural Forms:

  • Syllabi: This is the most widely accepted plural form, stemming from the Latin origin of the word.
  • Syllabuses: A less common but still correct plural form, adapted to follow the regular English pluralization rules.
etymology of syllabus

Understanding Syllabus

Definition of Syllabus

A syllabus is a detailed outline of a course provided by educational institutions or instructors. It typically includes topics to be covered, reading materials, assignments, grading criteria, and important dates.

Usage of Syllabus

The term is predominantly used in educational contexts. It serves as a guide for both instructors and students, ensuring that course expectations and content are clear from the outset.

Use of Syllabus in Sentences

  1. As a Guide: “The professor distributed the syllabus on the first day of class, outlining the semester’s expectations.
  2. For Planning: “Students referred to their syllabi to plan their study schedules for the upcoming exams.”
  3. As a Reference: “When in doubt about the assignment’s requirements, check the syllabus for clarification.
  4. In Communication: “The academic coordinator emailed all faculty members to update their course syllabuses for the next semester.”
  5. In Evaluation: “The accreditation committee reviewed the syllabi of various courses to ensure they met the educational standards.”

Common Mistakes and Confusions

  • Syllabi vs. Syllabuses: While “syllabi” is more common, “syllabuses” is also correct. The choice often depends on stylistic preference or adherence to traditional Latin forms.
  • Singular vs. Plural: Mistaking the singular “syllabus” for the plural and vice versa is a common error, especially in spoken English.
  • Mispronunciation: Pronouncing “syllabi” as “syllab-eye” instead of the correct “syllab-ee.”

Commonly Asked Questions

  1. Is “Syllabi” the Only Correct Plural Form?
    • No, both “syllabi” and “syllabuses” are correct, with “syllabi” being more traditional.
  2. Can “Syllabus” Refer to More Than One Course?
    • Typically, a syllabus refers to a single course. Multiple courses would require multiple syllabi or syllabuses.
  3. How Do Different Educational Systems Use the Term?
    • The use is generally consistent across educational systems, referring to a course outline or guide.


In conclusion, understanding the plural forms of “syllabus” – “syllabi” and “syllabuses” – is essential in academic and professional contexts. While “syllabi” remains the more traditional and widely used form, “syllabuses” is also correct and gaining acceptance. The term’s proper usage ensures clear communication in educational settings, reflecting one’s attention to detail and linguistic proficiency.


What are the acceptable plural forms of “syllabus”?

Both “syllabi” and “syllabuses” are acceptable as plural forms of “syllabus.”

How did the word “syllabus” originate and what is its plural form based on?

The word “syllabus” is derived from New Latin and is believed to have come from a misreading of the Greek word “síttybās,” which is a plural form referring to a label on a papyrus roll.

Are there other words in English that have multiple plural forms like “syllabus”?

Yes, there are other Latin-derived terms in English that have multiple plural forms, such as “octopuses/octopi,” “platypuses/platypi,” “cactuses/cacti,” and “thesauruses/thesauri.”

Which plural form of “syllabus” is more commonly used?

Both “syllabi” and “syllabuses” are considered correct, but “syllabi” is the more traditional plural form. However, “syllabuses” has gained popularity and is also widely used.

Can I use either “syllabi” or “syllabuses” to refer to the plural form of “syllabus”?

Yes, both “syllabi” and “syllabuses” are acceptable, so you can use either form to refer to the plural of “syllabus.

How should I decide whether to use “syllabi” or “syllabuses”?

The choice between “syllabi” and “syllabuses” may depend on personal preference or the preference of your professor or institution. It is best to use the term preferred by your professor or to simply refer to them as “course outlines.”

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