index - plural: indexes vs. indices.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by andersxman, Dec 10, 2006.

  1. andersxman Senior Member

    Is there a difference between the above words? I believe I have heard about both "stock indexes" and "stock indices" - would they be one and the same thing?
  2. SweetSoulSister Senior Member

    American English
    They are the same thing, "index" singular, the plural is either "indexes" or "indices".
  3. TrentinaNE

    TrentinaNE Senior Member

    English (American)
  4. Kafoozalem New Member

    Northern England
    England English
    I would advise using "indices" rather than "indexes". The latter is acceptable, but sounds wrong to some native speakers.
  5. TrentinaNE

    TrentinaNE Senior Member

    English (American)
    To my surprise, Merriam-Webster (see link above) lists indexes first, so it must be more commonly used in AE. Academic writing, however, tends to use indices.

  6. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    "Indices" is the original Latin nominative plural of "index" (nominative singular), a word taken directly from Latin.
    appendix--appendices, matrix--matrices
    phenomenon--phenomena (Greek), medium--media, bacterium--bacteria.
    "Indexes" seems to be becoming more acceptable these days.
  7. Indexes may be common in AE, but I rarely hear it used, at least where I've been. Indices is more common, I would say, at least in the scientific and math-related fields. Those are really the main classes I've heard it used in.

    hmm my spell-checker counts "indices" as wrong. I use it.
  8. Giordano Bruno

    Giordano Bruno Senior Member

    English, England
    While I agree with all of the above, if I were referring to those pages at the back of reference books which show the relevant page numbers of the item you are looking for, I would call them "indexes".
  9. Victoria32

    Victoria32 Senior Member

    New Zealand
    English (UK) New Zealand
    Yes, there is a difference! Indices was once always used as the plural, but now indexes is usually used - although indices is still used in the sciences...

  10. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I agree with those who suggest that different forms are used in different contexts.
    In mathematics, it seems to be indices.
    In computing, when talking about indexed files, it is indexes.
  11. ASP.Thinker New Member

    For whatever reason this 'indexes' vs. 'indices' bothers me. Here's my understanding of the distinction:

    Indices is now and has always been the only plural of the noun 'Index'.
    Indexes is the present tense of the verb 'Index'.


    n. There are many stock indices.
    v. Jim indexes his files alphabetically.
  12. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hello ASP.Thinker, and welcome to WordReference.

    There are many reputable examples of indexes used as a plural of index. There may be some areas in which one or the other is preferred.
  13. IParleFrench Senior Member

    English - USA
    I prefer to use indexes, because indeces sounds pedantic to me (ha, in this WordReference text-box "indeces" is underlined in red for misspelling).

    A co-worker of mine, who should know better, has become so enamored with saying the word "indeces" that he now uses "indece" as the singular form. So using "indexes" can also serve the purpose of saving people from themselves.
  14. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    That's because it is a mis-spelling.
    You mean indices :)
  15. IParleFrench Senior Member

    English - USA
    Oh, boy! Thanks.

    So WordReference is in the clear. Well, it WAS. I just tried typing indices and got the same result.

    In any event, using indexes can apparently also help save me from myself :)
  16. Behane Senior Member

    St Etienne
    English, England
    Just a quick question - in an article about health statistics, would it be better to stick with index/indexes or index/indices or can I mix and match to avoid repetition? i.e 'indexes' in one sentence and 'indices' in another sentence a paragraph later. I'm helping a French friend proofread an article for publication in a British English journal
  17. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    Mixing and matching is rarely a good idea, since it looks careless.
  18. Behane Senior Member

    St Etienne
    English, England
    Sound advice Copperknickers, now we just have to choose whether to go for 'indexes' or 'indices' in the plural...

    Thanks for such a speedy response
  19. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Both plurals are correct, but many writers (including me) draw a distinction between meanings in deciding on the plural spelling. If I'm referring to the alphabetical lists of topics at the backs of books, I use indexes; if I'm using it to mean signs or indications, I use indices. Be aware that this is a personal choice, not a rule that others must follow.
  20. Panameño-

    Panameño- Member

    Elgin, Illinois
    Estados Unidos Español e Ingles
    How do you pronounce indices?
  21. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    The Romans, we are told, pronounced it IN-di-case, but not being a Roman, I would pronounce it IN-di-seas. (I learned a long time ago that the modern English pronunciation of "index" is the same as the classical Roman: IN-decks.)
  22. jponecm New Member

    I do a lot of technical writing on technology. Index is a noun when referring to a specialized database queried by a search engine. (there is an index that sits under Google.) I would use the word indices if I was describing all of the individual data elements contained with the index. Still a noun. If I'm performing the act of building a set of descriptors (indices), I am indexing something. Verb. I don't know if this is valid but it seems to make sense to use indexes to describe multiples. (there are indexes under the Google, Yahoo, and Bing search engines.) I'm not a language expert but as a native speaker this seems to fit. I'd be interested in what others think. JP
  23. Disturbed Englishman New Member

    British English
    I agree with ASP.Thinker. I do not doubt there are many ‘reputable’ examples of the incorrect usage, as there are with “Here is the data”; depending on one's definition of 'reputable'. But, reputable or not, I still believe they are wrong; for British English, at least. Americans can do as they please with their language, it seems to me.

    I will concede that this is how the English language has evolved. Reputable sources either invent new words or use existing ones incorrectly; or differently, at least. This becomes, at first, “acceptable”; and, subsequently, “correct”; tis the way of things, and my language would be poorer, were this not the case.

    However, I do experience a mild (but noteworthy) irritation at people inventing words through bad education, rather than to fulfil a need; since a perfectly adequate word, with an identical meaning, already exists. Therefore, whilst I am alive, ‘indexes’ will be the present tense form of the verb, ‘to index’. Furthermore, can I register my angst with the notion that if a word is misused by ‘sources of reputation’, it is somehow automatically acceptable to all and sundry?

    For what it is worth (and in good faith), to all those here who do not wish to be ridiculed by anyone educated at British Public Schools, use ‘indices’; not ‘indexes’. If you do not, a typical reaction will be “they must be American”. For those who could not care less about this, it seems you can use either; and be both understood and accepted as educated, by most people.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 29, 2013
  24. jponecm New Member

    Thanks for your post, Disturbed. Though I'm an American, amazingly, this question has been bothering me. Your input is helpful.
  25. greywolfe New Member

    English - US
    I'm new here, and stumbled across this site while looking for the answer to the original question in this thread after a discussion with a client of mine.

    This client was insistent that the plural of "index" was "indexes" and not "indeces" as I had written in the document he had hired me to translate. (Even now, in this post, I see that the spell checker is showing "indeces" as the error.)

    At any rate, I ran a Google search for "indexes" and for "indeces", Here are the results:

    "Indexes" gets 74,400,000 hits.
    "Indeces" gets 53,900,000 hits.

    Since most of my work is in the business and financial fields, rather than academic or scientific ones, I guess I'll have to accept my client's correction and use the word "indexes" as the plural of "index" from now on.
  26. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    Do you mean "indeces"? The two possible plurals for "index" are "indexes" and "indices."

    When you run a Google on "indeces," it auto-corrects and searches for "indices." That's why you're getting so many results.

    Furthermore, "indexes" is a form of the verb "to index." So you find more results because "indexes" searches for both the plural of "index" and the conjugated form of "to index."
  27. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Greywolfe, indeces is an error - it's spelled indices. You get a lot more hits when you spell it correctly. ;)

    I use indices, but indexes certainly isn't wrong, and if that's what the client wants...well, the client is always right, right?

    (Cross-posted with Lucas)
  28. greywolfe New Member

    English - US
    Thanks to both JustKate and lucas-sp for the correction, but even spelled "indices", I get only 54,100,000 hits, as opposed to 53,900,000 for "indeces". That still puts "indexes" in first place.

    I've always had a problem with the "customer is always right" approach. This may not belong to the original thread topic, but I have had clients who didn't know the difference between "except" and "accept", but were adamant in using the wrong word in a document. Translators can be sued-- a colleague of mine in Israel was sued when she agreed to change "accept" to "except" at the client's insistence on a cover letter for application forms to Michigan State a few years ago. In the end, the court threw the case out, but you can see where the principle of "the customer is always right" can lead to trouble...

    The original sentence was "Please accept my attached application for the coming school year..." and the client had it changed to "Please except my attached application for the coming school year..."

    I could never understand why the client was upset-- the college did exactly what he asked them to do, the excepted his application.
  29. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    As noted above, Google changed that to give you the hits for indices - that's why the google estimates (not real numbers) are essentially the same. You will get a much better idea of the true relative usage by using the Ngram viewer : type in indeces, indexes, indices into the (case sensitive) box and see that indeces is nowhere to be seen, while indexes and indices are similar in frequency (whether in BrE or AmE, even though there may be a slight difference). There is no justification for using indeces at all!
  30. kierkegaard New Member

    English - American
    My new thread entitled "indices" was deleted for the reason that there was this thread extant. Ironically the title of my thread was selected randomly. My point is that indices is one of a class of words threatened with habitat destruction. (The habitat of words being the minds of people). Symposia and cacti are threatened in a similar way as singular words like datum. In my opinion non-s-formed plurals and irregular plurals are losing ground. I believe in many cases, like the word "data," of which you can find a misuse almost every day, a large number of agrammatical people simply do not care if they misuse words. They can sense that the datum is close to extinction and that it soon won't matter. Data will soon be like sheep, one data, two data, come back here little data.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2013
  31. Mahantongo

    Mahantongo Senior Member

    English (U.S.)
    Are they? I just this evening was at the 159th annual Bloomsburg Fair in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, which is not an event whose target audience is made up of self-described grammarians. In the horticultural exhibit hall, where various folk from Columbia and Montour and Northumberland Counties were competing for ribbons in showing off their best vase full of garden flowers or best display of home-grown green peppers, there was a table of exhibits from competitors who were displaying their most handsome spiny, succulent houseplants. The label on the table read not "Cactuses" but "Cacti", and I think even a good portion of those among the fairgoers who would write that they were "Pennsylvanian's" would nevertheless also make a point of pluralizing "cactus" as "cacti". I would therefore conclude that the level of the "threat" to the word "cacti" may be exaggerated.
  32. kierkegaard New Member

    English - American
    I hope you are right, but I doubt it. Language evolution is not governed by insiders in bubbles of traditional usage (amateur or professional horticulturalists in this case), but by the mass of people. In my opinion, any time I see alternate forms of plural, there is one form gaining on the other. At some point the usage of the less-favored choice moves to "rare", and eventually "archaic." I know from my Computer Science background, where indexes are an important commodity, that people including many foreigners, started using that word regularly in favor of indices. Not to pick on foreigners, but it is always easier to slap on an "s" or "es" than to come up with the other rule.
  33. Beryl from Northallerton Senior Member

    British English
    I think it's horses for courses, as per this post.

    I've never heard the word 'indexes' used in a mathematical context.

    As regards the old business of the deterioration of language, if language didn't evolve, we'd still be grunting at each other.

    As regards the new business of computer science, we've seen stacks of fresh and excellent language spring from that domain.
  34. Giordano Bruno

    Giordano Bruno Senior Member

    English, England
    One further thought which attempts to go beyond mere opinion. Words with irregular forms create a particular problem with new words formed metaphorically from them. If a project were "fast-tracked" we would not think of railway tracks - no problem here as "track" is regular in all forms. We would view this as a different word entirely. If I say that I have highlighted an important passage, it is understood that I have underlined, circled or otherwise drawn attention to something. If I said that I had "highlit" the passage the reader would start thinking in terms of overhead lighting. Note that the use of the irregular form draws the sense back to the original meaning.
    In the case of indices, these are generally thought of a mathematical modifiers. If we use the irregular form to refer to a list of text entries, we confuse the reader and the meaning is no longer clear. It is a question of which definition came first or otherwise established itself.
    In the case of "stock indices", I would understand this to refer to the numerical values from various sources or different dates. "Stock indexes" would be an alphabetical list of the various individual stocks.
  35. Elwintee Senior Member

    London England
    England English
    My British English version is 'indy seas', as in 'windy seas'. But there will be regional/international/personal variations.
  36. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Or, as others have noted, we keep both forms and differentiate between them - as in Giordano's distinction between stock indices and stock indexes.

    We do the same with appendices and appendixes.
  37. CapinWinky New Member

    English - United States
    As several people have posted, I consider Indexes and Indices to be completely different words.

    Index, the noun meaning an indicator/measure of something, I would pluralize as indices. That would cover stock indices.

    I'm a little up in the air on what I would do with Index, the noun meaning an order list, or the noun that is more or less a synonym for database. I'm actually leaning indices on these, but would probably in practice use language that avoids pluralizing them.

    Index, the noun meaning the motion done moving to the next setting or position, would always be pluralized as indexes. "The machine performs five indexes, then loads the products into a box." Replace 'indexes' with 'indices' in that sentence and I'm sure you will agree with me.

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