I have been reading some papers on air transport management and I have found the word minimum is pluralized as minima. E.g.: landing minima.

I always thought the plural of minimum is minimums. I have looked it up on Google and I have found that both are accepted.

Which word (minima/minimums) do the people use when speaking in a normal context? (Out of curiosity I would also like to know where does the word minima come from? Since in English plurals are never done like that.)

  • 1
    Interestingly, I'm sure you use the word data and not datums. – Martin Argerami Mar 3 '16 at 0:45
  • I thought landing minimums, not minima, was the idiomatic way to express the position at which a landing decision should be made. Minima is used in most other contexts, however. – Hugh Mar 3 '16 at 1:11

"Minima" is the Latin style pluralization of minimum. In spoken American English, I think minimums is much more common (and my spellcheck recognizes minimums, but not minima), but either is acceptable.

To read more about Latin plurals, check out this link.

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    Note that in mathematics, maximum and minimum are technical terms (jargon) and their respective plurals are always maxima and minima. In my experience it is very rare to hear the Latin forms in casual conversation. – Era Mar 2 '16 at 21:59
  • @Glorfindel that is interesting! Although, now that I think about it, it kind of makes sense, because I can't really think of many uses for the word minimums that aren't very informal or context dependant, because it always begs the questions minimums of what? For example "I met the mandatory minimums" -> "I met the mandatory minimum requirements", so the longer version with minimum as an adjective is probably a lot more common in writing, as well as "minima" and "maxima" being common in technical usage. – Sarah Mar 2 '16 at 22:31
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    I also think it's interesting the Ngram of the "English Fiction" corpus shows a very different story. – Sarah Mar 2 '16 at 22:33

From a purely conversational perspective, I have never heard someone use the word minima. On the other hand I have heard minimums used a handful of times.

As far as grades and academics are concerned, what would be considered the minimums to get into this school?

Of course there are plenty of better ways to state the above (such as ..."the minimum requirements.")

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