'Octopuses' or 'Octopi' or 'Octopods': What is the Plural of Octopus?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on October 27, 2022

‘Octopus’ is one of those tricky words in the English language that becomes a bit complex when it comes to the plural version of the word. This article will dive into the plural form of octopus, the reason for it, and how to use it in a sentence, among other things.

To keep it short and sweet, the plural of ‘octopus’ is ‘octopi,’ ‘octopuses,’ or ‘octopods.’

The Many Plurals of ‘Octopus’

Unlike many words in the English language, the word ‘octopus’ isn’t pluralized in the traditional way.

Standard Pluralization Rules

The standard rule for plural nouns is to add an ‘s’ or ‘es’ to a word to make it plural. Take a look at a few examples:

  • Roof > Roofs
  • Laptop > Laptops
  • Buffalo > Buffaloes
  • Lunch > Lunches
  • Watch > Watches
  • Tax > Taxes

And with other words, like with some words that end in ‘f’ or ‘fe,’ you’d drop the ‘f’ or ‘fe’ and add ‘ves.’ Take a look at some examples:

Should You Say ‘Octopuses’ or ‘Octopi’

Since there are a few ways to pluralize the word, you can say either ‘octopuses,’ ‘octopi,’ or even ‘octopodes/octopods,’ which is a lot less common than the other options. So, it’s entirely up to you which version you use. Although, plenty of academics may try to convince you that the only proper way to pluralize the word is ‘octopi.’ It’s a pretty common misconception.

The Plural of Octopus: Octopi or Octopuses?

So, what’s the plural of octopus? Octopi? Octopuses? Octopods? Octopodes?

The answer is all of them are correct. Use all of them or only one of them, and you’d still be correct.

A Brief History

Octopi is the oldest plural form of the word ‘octopus.’ It’s believed that it’s a Latinized form of the Greek word. The next plural form to be accepted as ‘octopuses,’ which gives the word an English ending. Finally, since the word has Greek origins, the belief is that it should have a Greek ending, which is why the reason it’s acceptable to use ‘octopod/octopodes.’

Definition and Meaning

You know the many plural forms of the word ‘octopus,’ but do you know what it means? Even if you do, let’s define it anyway.

Here’s what Merriam-Webster says it means: “any of a genus (Octopus) of cephalopod mollusks that have eight muscular arms equipped with two rows of suckers” and “any octopod excepting the paper nautilus.”

The second definition is “something that resembles an octopus, especially in having many centrally directed branches.”

Using All Forms in a Sentence

Now that we’ve got the plural form and definition out of the way, we can think about how to use the word in all its forms correctly in a sentence.

Here’s how you’d do that:

  • I saw an octopus at the zoo yesterday. (singular)
  • I saw two octopuses at the zoo yesterday. (plural)
  • I saw two octopi at the zoo yesterday. (plural)
  • I saw two octopods at the zoo yesterday. (plural)

Singular and Plural Possessive Forms

After learning about the singular and plural forms of the word, you might be wondering how to make the singular and plural possessive forms in case you ever need to.

First, know that the singular possessive form of the word is ‘octopus’s. The plural possessive form of the word is ‘octopuses.’

Here’s how to use both forms in a sentence:

  • That octopuses’ eyes aren’t supposed to be that color. (singular)
  • I don’t like the way those octopuses’ tentacles are pointed at me. (plural possessive)

Final Thoughts on ‘Octopuses,’ ‘Octopi,’ and ‘Octopods’

Now that you know there are multiple ways to express the plural form of ‘octopus,’ you can use each form correctly in a sentence.

Octopus doesn’t have to be a tricky word to remember. When in doubt, just add ‘es,’ which follows the traditional rules for pluralization in English. Similar to the way you’d add ‘s’ to words like ‘roof’ and ‘trout.’

If you ever need a refresher, check out our library of confusing words for reference whenever you need to.

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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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