Some words change their meanings in the plural. For example:

  • "wood" and "woods"
  • "custom" and "customs".

My book gives "minutes" and "minute"

I looked up the word minute. It refers to time but as "minutes" to either record of a meeting or subvisions of time or angle. Is it the difference the book is talking about?


The word "minute" when used to indicate "subdivisions of an angle" may appear either singular or plural. So this is not an example of a word changing meanings in the plural.

There is another alternative meaning of "minute": "(n) a brief note or summary", as in

Who is keeping minutes at today's meeting?

However, when using that meaning, the word may also appear as singular or plural.

It is possible the book is probably trying to indicate the following meaning of "minute": "(adj) very small".

This is pronounced differently, however, with stress on the second syllable instead of the first - it's a totally different word.

Compared to a the gorilla, the mouse is a minute creature.

So, sadly, I don't think "minute" is a very good example of a word changing meaning when plural as you say your book claims. (Can you tell us the book title and page?)

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    Minutes pl. is treated as a distinct and special usage in the dictionaries - e.g. Merriam-Webster: "minute 4a : a brief note (as of summary or recommendation) b : memorandum, draft c minutes plural : the official record of the proceedings of a meeting". - So I think it probably is this distinction (between "minute", sg., memorandum, and "minutes", pl. official record of a meeting) that the book is referring to. "Minute" (tiny) is less likely because the other examples are all nouns. – rjpond Aug 31 at 14:50
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    Meaning 4c at www.m-w.com, or meaning 1 of minute(3) at Lexico. "Minutes" (pl.) meaning "official record of a meeting" is only used in the plural - although it could be seen as simply a specialised use of the (less common) use of "minute" to mean "brief note" or "memorandum" - as BadZen suggested. – rjpond Aug 31 at 15:00
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    They are the same meaning; and listened under the same denotative heading (4). (4c) is indicating that when the plural form is used in the context of a business meeting, the minutes (4a) produced are implied to be an "official record". I would not say the word "changes meaning", but rather in a specific context of use it carries an additional aspect of meaning when plural. – BadZen Aug 31 at 15:03
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    Perhaps so - at any rate, both the dictionaries I checked found the plural use worthy of a specific entry or sub-entry. But I agree, "changes meaning" is an exaggeration. – rjpond Aug 31 at 15:10
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    I only meant that in my experience, it is rare to use "a minute" (in the sense of "a memorandum") in everyday life. The main place I've come across is in press reporting of internal government memoranda, e.g. "A senior Foreign Office official sent a minute to an adviser to Jack Straw, the then foreign secretary, warning about the discrepancy" ( theguardian.com/uk/2010/jul/12/… ). – rjpond Aug 31 at 16:01

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