Word of the Day

myriad

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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

Definition

an extremely large number of people or things, especially one that is too large to count

Origin and usage

The noun myriad comes from Latin and Greek words meaning ‘ten thousand’. It was first used in English with this meaning in the mid 16th century. The adjective dates from a century later.

Examples

The noun myriad originally referred to 10,000 of something, in particular 10,000 soldiers. After being used with this meaning particularly to refer to Greek and Roman history, myriad soon extended its scope. It started to be used, first in the plural and then in the singular, to refer to large numbers of anything, especially with the following preposition ‘of’: myriads of men, or saints, or planets, a myriad of faces, universes or creatures. Typical collocates today tend to be inanimate: they include ways, challenges, ideas, options, factors, possibilities and the like. The phrases ‘a myriad of’ or less frequently ‘myriads of’ are the most usual way in which the noun is used. Myriad started to be used as an adjective around the middle of the 17th century and is still used today with the same meaning. Some people believe that adjectival myriad is correct and its use as a noun incorrect but this is not the case; the noun and adjective are roughly equal in frequency and both are correct. Macmillan Dictionary describes both the noun and the adjective as ‘mainly literary’; to my ear the adjective is more literary than the noun.



Quotations

“Life is a myriad of territories to discover. I don’t want to waste time with what I already know.”
(Jeanne Moreau, actress)

“When I write, I’m constantly putting myself in the position of someone else as I write using myriad voices.”
(Joanne Harris, novelist)

Related words

heaps of, a stack of, masses, oodles, pots

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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