Writing tip: 'fewer' and 'less' have different meanings
Award-winning newspaper editor Rick Rake and noted "grammar hound" John R. Laing join the team at Click Media Works

What is the correct way to use the word 'myriad'?

One of the questions we're regularly asked is "What is the correct way to use the word myriad?"MyriadColoursWell, the word myriad can be used two ways. You can use it as an adjective, its conventional form: "This old-fashioned candy store offers myriad textures and flavours." And, because language evolves, it is now acceptable to use it as a noun: "This old-fashioned candy store is a myriad of textures and flavours."  


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I know that the "correct" modern form is to use myriad without the "of". However it just sounds strange to me to say "myriad textures and flavors" (referring to the candy store). I feel like a word is missing in there. But I'm no etymologist so what do I know...

Kathleen Rake

Thanks for your question, N. Lewis:

I am in not an etymology expert, but I do know that language is a living thing, so it changes. How quickly and the way it changes depends on who is using it, how often, and why. Some bits of language evolve more quickly than others; take, for example, the word 'Google'. It started as a noun but is now used as a verb as well ... it changed or evolved in a relatively short period of time. The word 'myriad', according to my limited research, started as a noun then evolved into an adjective. While the word is still used as an adjective, and is considered to be the ONLY correct usage by many people (in my circles, anyway), it is once again used quite regularly as a noun ... a further evolution.

Here is a short piece that attempts to answer the question, "How does language evolve?" - http://news.softpedia.com/news/How-Does-the-Language-Evolve-68867.shtml

Here is a short video by Kate Gardoqui titled "How did English evolve?" - http://youtu.be/kIzFz9T5rhI

Hope this helps.


Kathleen Rake

N Lewis

I'm confused. If the original use of the word was as a noun, how can it use then evolve from use as an adjective into a noun?

Kathleen Rake

You're right! The word 'myriad' was originally a noun. Thanks for making that very clear to my readers.

When I refer to 'traditional' usage of the word, I mean it in terms of modern writing times--19th century, onward.



C Kennedy

The oldest (or to use your term "traditional") usage of the word "myriad" is the noun form; not the adjective form as you suggest. Please refer to Merriam-Webster or any other dictionary that provides the etymology of the word.

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