It is a book which has many couplets, written as a set of ten, categorized under different titles. For instance, there is a set of ten under the title "The decad of mountains" This one has couplets written about mountains.

There is one with the title "The decad of Elephants" However, this one has couplets, not written about elephants, but has reference to "elephants" in each one of them. So, basically, this set of ten simply has the word "elephant" mentioned in them and that is the commonality between them.

Is there a difference between "decad on" and "decad of?"

My understanding of "on" and "of" is as follows:

on mountains - about mountains
of mountains - belonging to mountains

However, these two are used interchangeably by many. Do they have any difference at all?

  • 3
    When you say decad, do you mean "a set of ten", or was decad a typo for something else? You should also provide a complete sentence, because the context might change the answer.
    – stangdon
    Sep 13, 2021 at 14:13
  • @stangdon Yes, it a set of ten couplets.
    – Ammu
    Sep 13, 2021 at 14:36

2 Answers 2


A few things:

  1. The word "decad" is uncommon. It's not wrong, but it is atypical outside of literary contexts. Some native speakers might not recognize it at all. My spell checker says it is incorrect, but it does appear in the dictionary.
  2. The use of "on" which you describe is also faintly literary (at least in American English), although it could appear in non-literary contexts as well. However, in non-literary contexts, the word "about" would be more typical.
  3. A "decad of mountains" literally means "ten mountains." The word "of" implies that the decad consists of mountains, and not of "things related to mountains." However, in a literary context, this would be acceptable as metaphor.
  • That is correct. I am aware that the word "decad" is not popular in non-literary contexts. However, in literature, especially the older ones, I find them often used to represent a set of ten pieces written on a single subject. To the third point in your response: "decad on mountains" does it mean that the set of ten couplets has "mountains" mentioned in them or does it just mean "ten mountains" as you have mentioned. I am trying to be sure that I understood what you have said.
    – Ammu
    Sep 13, 2021 at 15:05
  • I don't believe the word decad has any special "literary" significance. It's an almost unknown term anyway, but the primary meaning is just the historical / philosophical sense of the number 10, as the "perfect number" of the Pythagoreans. The secondary (even rarer) sense from the full OED is as a specialised musical term - a group of ten notes out of which may be formed the consonant triads, and all the discords possible without a modulation. I think it's positively insane for non-native Anglophones to be promoting the usage today. Sep 13, 2021 at 16:08
  • @FumbleFingers: In literary contexts, you can dredge up almost any barely-used word and press it into service. I agree that it has no place in common parlance, but literary contexts are not common parlance.
    – Kevin
    Sep 13, 2021 at 17:35
  • @Ammu: The third point is about "of." Not "on." I very deliberately split those prepositions out into two separate points.
    – Kevin
    Sep 13, 2021 at 17:36
  • @Kevin That was a typo. I apologize, I meant to say "decad OF mountains"
    – Ammu
    Sep 14, 2021 at 2:57

Many poems in English are named "Lines on [something]": Keats's Lines on the Mermaid Tavern for example, and others by Burns, Poe, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Ogden Nash, Philip Larkin and Michael Hamburger. "On" is used to mean "on the subject of". Such titles sound, as Kevin said, a little literary.

The use of "Of" in the titles of Bacon's essays (e.g. "Of Truth") and Montaigne's (e.g. "Of Pedantry") is outmoded, though when Steinberg titled his novel, "Of Mice and Men", people no doubt understood it to mean "on the subject of" rather than "belonging to." [The Burns poem from which he drew his title uses the word in its common possessive sense.]

While I'm persuaded it would be wisest not to use "decad", it's worth remembering that "Rubáiyát" in the title of the famous poem, is a Persian word describing its four-line stanzas. Perhaps the stanza-describing word in the title of your poems might similarly be used untranslated.

  • 1
    In the full OED, the first ("base") definition of the word decade is an assemblage, group, set, or series of ten, which clearly makes it suitable for referents other than the most common one (years). Besides which, they give half-a-dozen citations referring to sets of 10 caveats, prisoners, propositions, hymns,... But decad is simply defined as The number ten (the perfect number of the Pythagoreans) - it's more of an "abstract philosophical concept" than a "numeric quantifier". And in any case, it's unknown to most native speakers, so should not be endorsed here. Sep 14, 2021 at 12:25
  • OK. Enough. I'm persuaded! :) A word so rarely used shouldn't be endorsed here. When you mentioned its use as a musical term I fancied I had heard it used in a B.Mus class long ago to mean either a gamut, or a particular assortment, of ten notes. (The OED's definition is quite opaque and would, I think, baffle most musicians.) And I thought, 'Why not?' Had this been the Literature group I might have said how intriguing I would find the title "A decad of elephants", but for English learners that's clearly not appropriate. I'll delete my answer or rethink it. Sep 15, 2021 at 2:31
  • 1
    Now upvoted - after having just searched Google Books for "a decad of". I had to do it twice (Google initially took it for granted I was looking for "a decade of), but the second attempt turned up many references to a 1679 political tract from English controversialist Thomas Pierce, called A Decad of Caveats to the People of England. Sep 16, 2021 at 12:02
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers. Thanks. I've half a mind to edit the Pierce page on Wikipedia, which spells it 'Decade', but I daresay someone would change it back! Sep 16, 2021 at 12:23
  • 1
    Bizarrely, the French version is dizain - a French poem or stanza of ten lines, employing eight or ten syllables to the line and having a specific rhyming pattern, as ababbccdcd. Sounds too much like dozen for me! Sep 16, 2021 at 17:36

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