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When it comes to dice, what's the appropriate way to denote the number of their sides/faces?

A six-sided die or a four-faced die?

Or have these two no difference for natives?

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    You do realize that a conventional cubic dice (I know the singular "die", but don't wish to encourage its use) has six faces as well as six sides? A four-faced/sided dice is a tetrahedron (the faces are triangles, not squares). See this usage chart showing that we're much more likely to refer to a six-sided dice than a six-faced dice. Apr 4 at 17:07
  • @FumbleFingers is this referring to the fact that each face on a traditional die is square (4 edges)? Yeah, going by the number of edges on a face would not even be enough information. 4-sided, 8-sided, and 20-sided dice all have triangular faces. Apr 5 at 14:14
  • @DarrelHoffman: My intuitive grasp of 3-d geometry isn't that good, but does that imply there are more regular-sided "dice" with far more than 20 triangular sides? My gut feel is there ought to be an infinite number of such dice - but a dice with more than 20 sides (however shaped) probably wouldn't be practical because it would be so nearly spherical we'd have trouble deciding which was the "upper" face! If indeed there was an unambiguously upper face for that shape (that's not the case for a tetrahedral dice, so there's the problem of deciding what you actually "rolled" with it! :) Apr 5 at 16:34
  • ...okay - I've just realized there are only the 5 "platonic solids", and only 3 of them have triangular faces. I still have no intuitive understanding of why there aren't any more, but I guess that's just too deep for me! Apr 5 at 16:46
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    @FumbleFingers Not that you asked but: a Platonic solid is a convex solid in which all of the faces are congruent, regular polygons, and every vertex meets the name number of faces. If the polygons have too many sides, then the measure of each angle is going to be too large to allow three faces to meet at a vertex. Apr 5 at 20:06

4 Answers 4

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I'd go with 'sided' as a Brit.

Just to note, though, that very many people don't know what a 'die' is. They will use the word 'dice' for singular or plural.
Right or wrong, if you call it a 'six-sided dice', everyone will know what you mean, and only the true pedants will correct your usage of 'dice'.

In fact I got the OED to agree with me…

The form dice (used as plural and singular) is of much more frequent occurrence in gaming and related senses than the singular die.

Both the OED & Wikipedia use both terms, sides and faces, so this may be one of familiarity, rather than absolute correctness.

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    I'd love to know the result of a straw poll amongst British citizens as to what "The die is cast" means [without allowing them to google it]. I'd bet the vast majority, if they knew at all, would think it something to do with metal-working. Few would go straight for "one dice was thrown & the result is now immutable." Apr 4 at 11:11
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    I'm an American, and "a dice" really irritates me; it should always be "a die". Then again, I grumpily admit to being a tiresome pedant.
    – stangdon
    Apr 4 at 11:24
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    If ‘dice’ gets accepted as the singular, before too long we'll want a way to distinguish the plural, and I really don't want to have to refer to ‘dices’…
    – gidds
    Apr 4 at 18:11
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    @DoneWithThis. I don't, because in most cases "data point" is a perfectly acceptable singular form. Apr 5 at 11:13
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    @Flydog57 I assume you weren't aware that "the die is cast" is a translation of the Latin "alea jacta est"...
    – stangdon
    Apr 5 at 14:39
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As an American from the midwest, "sided" would be the term used by the general public, and everyone I've heard refer to dice after about grade-8 correctly uses the singular and plural forms, "die" and "dice" respectively.

As a tabletop gamer, we additionally use a particular jargon: Instead of referring to "sides" of dice, we use a shorthand. We would refer to a die by a "d" concatenated with the number of sides on that die. Therefore, a "six-sided die" would simply be a "d6" read aloud as "dee six". Ten of those dice would be "10d6", read aloud as "ten dee six". Even friends who aren't gamers pick this up really quickly. It's a lot faster to refer to gaming dice this way, since we often have handfuls of dice to cast that can look like "6d6 + 4d12 + 1d20", and they all have special uses.

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  • As another American with roots on the East coast, inter-mountain West and the Midwest, I'd pin you as a Canadian for using "grade-8". Unless, of course, we're talking about nuts and bolts. "Eighth grade" is the last year of junior high/middle school before heading off to high school...
    – FreeMan
    Apr 6 at 12:45
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To my ear, "these dice each have 6 faces" and "these dice each have 6 sides" are completely interchangeable. Either "sides" or "faces" is a perfectly normal word to use.

However I would never used the phrase "6-faced dice". I would know what it meant instantly, but it sounds unusual enough to be "wrong". Only "6-sided dice" sounds normal.

So to the question in the title, I would say either is fine and there is no difference. But with the usage in the question body I would say only "-sided" is acceptable - though I wouldn't lose sleep over it, as "-faced" would be understood to mean exactly the same thing, it just sounds weird.

Language conventions are strange and arbitrary sometimes.

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    This is precisely my instinct as well. Talking about the faces of a die is normal; talking about an N-faced die is odd. A guess at a reason is that two-faced has such a specific and highly negatively laden meaning that it blocks the application of N-faced in other areas. Apr 6 at 10:03
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While neither is incorrect, and both would be understood, "sided" is much more idiomatic. One can see this using Ngrams.

enter image description here

Incidentally, despite what one of the other answers suggests, for the singular "die" remains much more common than "dice", at least in the corpus that Google uses. (I used this phrasing to try to avoid any doubt over whether the singular or plural was meant, or whether the word was being used in a different context. Results for "a six-sided die" versus "a six-sided dice" are similar.)

enter image description here

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    Re die vs dice I suspect that this is a case where written texts have gone through editors etc who tend to find things like that and also are more likely to recognise the Caeser quote than people speaking
    – mmmmmm
    Apr 5 at 15:09
  • I agree. 'Dice' to any family with children under ten playing board games, is an oral tradition not a written one. Apr 6 at 12:49
  • "roll a dice" vs "roll a die" - just doing an ordinary Google.com search for the quoted phrase returns 803,000 and 648,000 results respectively in favour of "roll a dice".
    – MrWhite
    Apr 6 at 23:20

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