I'm wondering why I need to say scissors instead of just 'scissor'. Are there any rules about it?

I would think that I only have one scissor, meaning it would be singular and not plural. (That's at least how it is in my native language.)

This would only be one scissor in Danish.


Can anyone tell me why it needs to be plural?

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    Because English. Why "pants" instead of "pant"? Just because that's how it is.
    – The Photon
    Jan 1, 2020 at 18:06
  • 2
    A scissor is a single blade. What you picture shows are a pair of scissors. Jan 1, 2020 at 18:07
  • @Bernhard Döbler: Never originally in English, I think (though maybe as a latter-day "back-formation). The full OED gives me the impression the noun (for the instrument) was already pluralised in Anglo-Norman cisours in C13 before being ported into the nascent English tongue. But of course, since we Saxon peasants would rarely be educated in the arcane arts of reading and writing back then, we'd never have been able to hear the difference anyway (I assume the pluralising -s suffix was silent in French then as now). Jan 1, 2020 at 19:00
  • My Welsh friend says 'a scissor'. Jan 1, 2020 at 19:38
  • Also I am told by an American friend that some people in Wisconsin say 'a scissor'; she showed me a paper German-Sourced Features in Wisconsin English - they also may say 'a tweezer' and 'a clipper'. Jan 1, 2020 at 21:43

2 Answers 2



"A plurale tantum (Latin for "plural only", plural form: pluralia tantum) is a noun that appears only in the plural form and does not have a singular variant for referring to a single object. In a less strict usage of the term, it can also refer to nouns whose singular form is rarely used.

In English, pluralia tantum are often words which denote objects that occur or function as pairs or sets, such as spectacles, trousers, pants, scissors [...]."

plurale tantum

Merriam Webster:

Scissors is an example of a plurale tantum, or an English word that only has a plural form that represents a singular object. (Plurale tantum is not a plurale tantum: its plural is pluralia tantum). Though pluralia tantum name single objects, they are grammatically plural: "the scissors are on the table," "my pants are in the dryer." The shenanigans of English are myriad.

plurale tantum


  • He was wearing trousers this morning when he arrived, now he's wearing shorts.
  • He was wearing a pair of trousers this morning when he arrived.

Nouns like scissors,pants, trousers, etc. can be used as is in the singular.

  • Pass me those scissors that are on the table, please. is the same as:
  • Pass me that pair of scissors that is on the table, please.

However, in the plural, we must add the word two or three to the word pairs, etc.

  • There were five pairs of shorts hanging from the clothes line.
  • She had three pairs of glasses in her bag.

“Scissors” is one of a small group of English words that are always used in plural only. Others are trousers, pants, glasses (as in glasses that you wear in front of your eyes to fix problems with your eyesight), (weighing) scales.

Often you will use this in combination with “pair”, like “a pair of trousers”. For weighing scales we used to use pairs of scales, with weights going into one scale and the item to be weighed in the other, modern scales very often have one physical scale only but are still called “scales”.

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    n.b., in many dialects of English, scale can be used in the singular. Jan 1, 2020 at 22:53
  • Back when people wore monocles, the singular eyeglass was more common. It's also still used as an attributive as in eyeglass case.
    – The Photon
    Jan 2, 2020 at 6:40

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