4

Merriam-Webster doesn't help:

plural vortices also vortexes

Is the plural form a preference linked to the dialect (Am vs Br), or to the domain (aerodynamics vs meteorology), or something else?

  • 3
    "Vortex" allows either the Latin or the regular plural, so both "vortices" and "vortexes" are correct. – BillJ Jun 30 '17 at 18:37
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    Although the plural is vortices, either is acceptable and will be understood in any milieu. That is what MW tells you, helpfully enough, it seems to me! If you are writing a technical paper, it's wise to use the proper Latin plural, but it's an English word now, and vortexes is no less acceptable than referendums or aquariums. Oxford Dictionaries has a useful piece on the subject. (There is no dialectical preference.) – P. E. Dant Jun 30 '17 at 18:38
  • @P.E.Dant: Thanks for suggesting this article which I found very interesting: In French, aquaria and referenda are not used at all. – mins Jun 30 '17 at 22:28
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    @mins the French words that appear in English come from Old French via the Norman Conquest of England in the 11th century and then evolved (to some extent) separately from the French spoken in France. Which is why it must pain the modern French to hear such "English" words as "maladroit" pronounced "mal- a- droyt", but it's nine centuries too late to do anything about it. :) – Andrew Jun 30 '17 at 22:45
  • @Andrew: This mixing between languages seems a good thing to me, even with changes in spelling or pronunciation. But sometimes it's really strange, like (maybe more in the US) the use of maître d' which is actually an incomplete/meaningless expression for a French... – mins Jun 30 '17 at 23:55
3

As with many of these kinds of questions in English, the "correct" answer is the one that is either popular or in common use. In this case, both "vortices" and "vortexes" are used, so both are acceptable.

There is no difference in use between AmE and BrE. However, since "vortex" comes from the Latin, and since knowing the "proper" plural of Latin-based English words generally requires some education or at least serious study, "vortices" can sound more erudite than "vortexes".

Or, depending on the listener, more pretentious. Personally, I prefer "vortices", but mostly because I like the way it sounds.

  • "Vortices" is definitely more formal than "swirly things". Crazy thing: my spell checker has no problem with "vortexes", but gets indigestion over "vortices", which is technically correct. – fixer1234 Jun 30 '17 at 21:03
  • @mins I'm with fixer1234 -- my Chrome spell checker doesn't like "vortices". No dictionary is perfect, I guess. – Andrew Jun 30 '17 at 22:31
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I've been watching a lot of tornado videos lately. I hear 'vortices' used a lot more than 'vortexes' but what I also hear a lot is 'vortice' (pronounced vor-ti-see) used as the singular of 'vortices!' Storm chasers have a tendency to say either 'vortices' or 'multiple vortex' and I think it's becauses vortexes just sounds wrong. They don't want to sound ignorant on the videos, so when in doubt, it's 'multiple vortex.' The El Reno tornado videos are good examples of this because it started as multiple vortices moving around as a carousel and almost all of the chasers got this on video and shouted one of the above.

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