scabies - [uncountable]

scabies - [plural]

Do I understand correctly that it doesn't matter whether a verb after "scabies" has the singular form or the plural form?
That is, "scabies" is a collective noun, right?

  • Why you think it's a collective Noun?
    – Sam
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 4:30
  • @Sam A collective noun is a noun which can be followed by both a singular verb and a plural verb. Am I wrong?
    – Loviii
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 4:36
  • @MichaelHarvey Does it mean that to say "scabies" is plural is incorrect to you? Thanks.
    – Loviii
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 5:52
  • @MichaelHarvey "Mumps", "measles", and "hives" can be followed by a plural verb. M-W, for example, calls them "plural in form but singular or plural in construction", and I see that several other dictionaries agree. Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 14:22

1 Answer 1


Britannica is wrong, it may have been tricked by a Latin noun ending that looks like an English plural, or this may be American usage. In British English it is singular and always takes a singular verb.(example from Cambridge corpus):

Scabies was obviously a problem of national importance...

The word "scabies" is borrowed directly from a singular Latin word meaning "itch, roughness". While it is possible for a singular word to be become plural in English, this doesn't match actual use. We say "Scabies is a disease". The word is singular and strictly uncountable, it doesn't have a plural form in British English.

To qualify that, one occasionally sees "scabies" used to mean "scabies mites" and in this sense it might be plural "We examined some scabies under the microscope". Moreover, the singular-plural confusion is such that one can find examples of "scabies" used as a plural noun. "Scabies were diagnosed in 35% of the patients". This may be considered a variant, or non-standard use.

  • 3
    "Scabies" does have a plural form in English; I see that M-W and AHD both explicitly state the plural form. Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 14:26
  • Possibly a UK/US difference, Both Oxford and Cambridge, for example, say "uncountable" and I deem them to be correct for British English, in this case. Would an American say "Scabies are a disease caused by mites"?
    – James K
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 14:53
  • I can find the word "scabies" used in the plural on Google Books, particularly for the mites that cause the disease, e.g. Schlossberg's Clinical Infectious Disease (OUP, 2022). Attempting to find a clear division between UK and US in a professional or academic context are unlikely to be successful. It wouldn't be the first time a word changed its number in the passage from Latin to English (I have an agenda).
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 15:43
  • I don't know how Oxford and Cambridge define uncountable, but many definitions allow for plural uncountable nouns ("scissors", "pants", etc.). But yes, it's certainly possible that there's a dialectal difference with "scabies". Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 16:28
  • I tried repeating the google books search. I'll accept a rare plural use of "scabies" in a metonymic sense meaning "scabies lice". I could find a few example of "scabies" being used in the plural "Scabies were diagnosed during the ED stay in 39 of 111 patients" This use seems rare enough to be considered a mistake or at least non-standard.
    – James K
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 17:16

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