Word of the Week: etc.

THE late bloomer and slow-poke that I’ve always been all my life, I came into the etc. insight only about a decade ago while reading the journals of America’s legendary food writer, M.F.K. Fisher. Imagine having to traverse so many of life’s et ceteras before coming face to face with the word, unabbreviated:

et cetera (also etcetera)
pronounced AT-se-duh-ruh (American) or AT-se-tuh-ruh/AT-se-truh (British)

The word is Latin, from et (and) and cetera (the rest)—cetera being the neuter plural of ceterus (left over).

Oxford offers additional insight to the pronunciation of the word, noting how the word is occasionally mispronounced as ex cetera. They missed out this other mispronunciation: air cetera.

Three other points worthy of note from our Oxford sage:

1. On redundancy
The phrase “and et cetera” is redundant, for et means “and” in Latin. Try that, and you’d literally be saying, “and and the rest.”

2. Etc. is for things, not people
This abbreviation should be used for things, not for people. Et al.—an abbreviation of et alii (and other people) is properly used for other people too numerous to mention, as in a list of multiple authors: Bancroft, Fordwick, et al.

3. No italics, please
In general, both terms (and their abbreviations) are common enough that it is not necessary to italicize or underline them.


I invite you to write to me at  viv@mywritinghome.com if you have any word ideas you’d like to share.

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