Visa, like many other neutral gender Latin words with a singular ending in -um, is the plural form of visum.

Visas is thus the plural form of the plural form, comparable to mouse - mice - ‘mices’ or goose - geese - ‘geeses’. Same goes for quotum - quota - ‘quotas’. What is your expert opinion on this matter?

1 Answer 1


Don't assume that a word that has been borrowed from another language will retain its meaning, pronunciation, or grammatical function in English.

The word visa, in English is a singular countable noun, and the plural is "visas"

(The etymology is that visa is short for "charta visa" = document that has been seen. "visa" is the of the nominative feminine singular of the perfect passive participle of videō, so not a plural at all, not not a noun either. Quota comes from a shortening of quota pars, and is the nominative feminine singular. Again, not plural, not even a noun)

[You might have a better case with "data", which is a Latin plural noun, but usually treated as singular uncountable in English, although "datum" is occasionally used. As an observation, in English maths tests for all students at age 16, "data" is treated as singular: "this data". In advanced level tests for students at 18 it treated as plural. I doubt that many students even notice.]

[Further case, while I'm on the subject: "referenda" is a hypercorrection of the correct "referendums" since there is no Latin plural of the gerund referendum. But it is common enough that it can be accepted as an irregular plural.]

  • In European passports a ‘visa’ is still a visum, oddly enough. In other cases like quotum, quantum, medium there seems to be no rule as to what the English language does Feb 9, 2021 at 18:15
  • @Alex Reysenbach - Do you have photographic evidence of that? I think you might be mistaken. P.S. Are you talking about German text? Feb 9, 2021 at 18:28
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    There is a Latin word "visum" with a plural "visa" but it means "a vision" It's not the source of the English word Visa. Use of "visum" in Dutch might be a hypercorrection.
    – James K
    Feb 9, 2021 at 18:44
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    @chasly-supportsMonica You are correct.
    – rjpond
    Feb 9, 2021 at 22:18
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    There may actually be some uncertainty about the etymology. The OED specifies that it's a Latin feminine (without mentioning "charta"). Etymonline and Wiktionary have the feminine ("charta") theory. But Lexico and Merriam-Webster both state that Latin "visa" is a neuter plural. ( merriam-webster.com/dictionary/visa ; lexico.com/definition/visa ). Collins regards it as plural in its British English etymology, singular in its AmE etymology (borrowed from Webster's New World Dictionary) ( collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/visa ).
    – rjpond
    Feb 10, 2021 at 2:47

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