'Cactuses' or 'Cacti': What is the Plural of 'Cactus'?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on October 27, 2022

A lot of people struggle with making the plural form of the word ‘cactus.’ It can be tricky, especially when there are multiple plural forms of the word and you’re trying to remember which is correct.

To make it plain and simple, the plural of ‘cactus’ is ‘cacti’ or ‘cactuses.’ Both forms are used, although, in America, you might hear ‘cactuses’ more often.

Cacti or Cactuses: What’s the Plural of Cactus?

So, you just learned that there are a few acceptable ways to make the plural version of the word ‘cactus.’ 

Standard Pluralization Rules

The general rule for pluralizing most English words is to add an 's' or 'es.' Take a look at some examples:

  • Car > Cars
  • Bed > Beds
  • Swim > Swims
  • Watch > Watches
  • Ax > Axes
  • Latch > Latches

Some words that end in 'y,' have to be changed a bit differently. To pluralize some nouns that end in 'y,' you'd drop the 'y' and add an 'ies.' Check out some examples:

  • Fairy > Fairies
  • Daisy > Daisies
  • City > Cities
  • Emergency > Emergencies
  • Quality > Qualities

However, some words don't follow this rule because they might have a different origin.

Cacti vs. Cactus: Which is the Correct Plural Usage

Some people mistakenly believe that ‘cactus’ falls into the category of some words in the English language that don’t change when they’re pluralized. Some examples include:

  • Deer > Deer
  • Swine > Swine/swines
  • Trout > Trout/trouts
  • Shrimp > Shrimp/shrimps
  • Sheep > Sheep
  • Aircraft > Aircraft

The word has Latin origins and derives from the plural cacti. While this was originally the correct way to pluralize the word, it’s also become acceptable to use ‘cactuses,’ thanks to people using it all the time. New words get added to the dictionary all the time, and ‘cactuses’ was apparently one of them.

Cactus Definition and Meaning

Merriam-Webster defines ‘cactus’ as: “any family (Cactaceae, the cactus family) of plants that have succulent stems and branches with scales or spines instead of leaves and are found especially in dry areas (such as deserts).”

The Cambridge dictionary defines it as: “any of many types of desert plant, usually with sharp spines (=long points) and thick stems for storing water.”

Using Both Forms in a Sentence Correctly

Now that we’ve gone over how to pluralize the word and how to define it, we can talk about how to use it in a sentence.

Take a look at a few examples of how to use the singular form in a sentence:

  • My teacher has a cactus plant on her desk.
  • That cactus looks like it could use some water.
  • I don’t know why you wanted a cactus as a plant; it’s so ugly.

Take a look at a few examples of how to use the plural form in a sentence:

  • As we drove through the desert, we saw nothing but cactuses.
  • I thought you’d thrown my cactuses away when I moved out.
  • Cacti are very prickly, so don’t ever touch them.
  • I don’t like eating cacti; it’s actually pretty disgusting.

Singular and Plural Possessive Forms

Now let’s discuss the singular and plural possessive forms of the word, which may come up at some point, so it helps to know them.

The singular possessive form of ‘cactus’ is ‘cactus’s.’ The plural possessive form of the word is ‘cacti’s.’

To use the singular possessive form in a sentence, follow this example:

  • The cactus’s water levels were pretty low this morning.
  • The cactus’s color is a new shade of green.

To use the plural possessive form in a sentence, follow this example:

  • The cacti’s exhibit was the most boring of all the nature exhibits.
  • The cacti’s desert environment is required for their survival.

Final Thoughts on ‘Cactuses’ or ‘Cacti’

To recap, we’ve learned that the plural form of ‘cactus’ is ‘cacti’ or ‘cactuses.’ Both forms are acceptable to use.

To help you remember how to pluralize the word correctly, remember it’s similar to words like shrimp and trout, which have multiple acceptable plural forms.

If you’re ever struggling with confusing words or plurals, check out our library of confusing words.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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